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5 reviews, 15 user ratings

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Fearless (2006)
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by EricDSnider

"Less biopic-ing, more fighting, please."
3 stars

Huo Yuanjia was a Chinese martial arts master at the turn of the last century whose strength and bravery inspire fighters to this day. His story, told epically in "Fearless" by director Ronny Yu and writer Chris Chow, is a fitting coda for actor Jet Li's career as a movie martial artist.

Li has said this is his last big fists-and-swords saga, and it's a properly sober and sophisticated movie for such an occasion. It demonstrates Li's love for the art as well as his admiration for Huo Yuanjia, though like so many biopics, a blind devotion to the subject renders the film a little stale at times.

After some unnecessary flashbacks to Yuanjia's childhood -- is there a rule that ALL biopics must include scenes of the protagonist as a child? -- we meet him as an adult, highly skilled in the art of wushu and even attracting an entourage of followers and disciples. His head is perhaps a bit swelled, and we all know what pride goeth before.

There is a personal tragedy and then some wandering around, and then Yuanjia washes up in an idyllic little village of rice growers. He is cared for by the lovely Moon (Li Sun), who teaches him how to plant rice in the soggy canals. He has no idea how to do things like this, having become used to his fame as a fighter. He's lost his appreciation for nature, too: When his fellow workers stand up to appreciate a pleasant breeze blowing past, Yuanjia takes the opportunity to plant faster and get ahead of them.

He eventually winds up in the big city again, finding it changed from when he was last there. Foreigners have come in and now rule almost everything, humiliating the Chinese at every turn. People dress in Western clothes. There are Christian missionaries preaching on street corners.

The locals, in an effort to prove the Chinese people's dominance, put their best fighter, Yuanjia, up against four fighters from other regions. This event provides the film's action climax, but it's important to note that this is not, strictly speaking, an action film. What fights are included are fantastically choreographed and lovingly filmed (Ronny Yu is an old pro at this), but they are not the focus. The character of Huo Yuanjia is the focus, with the details of his fights comparatively unimportant until the end.

As such, I think some audiences will be disappointed. Those expecting wall-to-wall hand-to-hand combat will certainly feel slighted. But those wanting a detailed character study may also feel that something is missing from Yuanjia's tale. His rise, fall and redemption are stirring enough, acted with tender stoicism by Li -- yet as is the curse of this genre (biopics, not fight films), I never felt like I truly knew anything about him. He's more legend than man.

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originally posted: 09/27/06 16:42:40
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User Comments

12/29/17 morris campbell good imho 4 stars
8/18/09 Spaceman Spiff A wholesome and passionate movie filled with good times and good scenes. 5 stars
11/14/07 Tony M if you're a huge jet li fan like me this movie is definitely worth watching 5 stars
3/28/07 fools♫gold I think I've seen a VERY similar martial arts film before, but this still deserves respect! 5 stars
1/29/07 Indrid Cold Well, at least the filmmakers seem to realize people only watch these for the fights. 3 stars
12/12/06 William Goss Decent fights, but familiar story is drawn out. 3 stars
11/18/06 Quigley Disappointing; shows why I'm not a Jet Li fan. Good beginning fights though. See "Ong-Bak" 2 stars
10/24/06 Drew G A lot of fun, exactly what I wanted/expected 4 stars
10/07/06 Pokejedservo This is one of my favorites for Jet Li, one of the best kung fu films I've seen in years. 5 stars
10/04/06 stonemarshall93 Great movie! Probably the best martial arts movie I have ever seen. Must see!! 5 stars
10/03/06 Alfred Guy Great fight scenes - with a little heart added. 4 stars
9/28/06 BadBoy Definately not his best film, but includes very good fight scenes! 4 stars
9/24/06 KingNeutron Slow, definitely not what I was expecting from trailers. Not his best. 3 stars
9/24/06 malcolm as good, but not as pretty, as "hero" 5 stars
8/27/06 Sumixam great fight scenes, good story 5 stars
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  22-Sep-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Dec-2006



[trailer] Trailer

Directed by
  Ronny Yu

Written by
  Chris Chow

  Jet Li
  Collin Chou
  Nathan Jones
  Hee Ching Paw
  Betty Sun
  Nan Sun
  Anthony De Longis
  Masato Harada

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