The story of Chinese Martial Arts Master Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li), founder and spiritual guru of the Jin Wu Sports Federation. But before he finds his way, Huo (1869-1910), begins his adult life as a brilliant and brutally competitive fighter, who operates on pride and ego. After he kills an opponent and faces personal tragedy, he lives in a remote village working in rice paddies for some years, before returning home and forever defining himself at a martial arts tournament for the honor of his country and the true spirit of martial arts.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
This biopic of martial arts legend Huo Yuanjia set at the turn of the previous century in Shanghai is rich with a story that is at once a moral lesson and a martial arts showcase. This is an unhappy combo, as it turns out, and the film plays stilted and preachy. Stilted in the acting department and preachy in dialogue. There is too much earnest redemption material to deal with, so it is of course wonderfully ironic that the fight choreography is brilliant (thanks to good old Yuen Woo-ping).
Jet Li is a formidable talent and has plenty of charisma, but it's the rest of the cast (or most of them) whose performances are stilted. Nevertheless, the film hits all the plot points well enough, and there is no shortage of martial arts action in a variety of extended contest scenes.
The story is bookended with Huo's last fight in 1910, with the rest of the film taken up by his life in flashback, starting from his childhood, watching his martial artist father practice and drawing inspiration from him. But the young Huo doesn't quite catch on to the most important aspects of his father's principles, and has to learn them the hard way. The message is peace and balance and spiritual harmony, all set against the backdrop of a China emerging from the shadows and the Chinese trying to shrug off the demeaning attitudes of Westerners towards them.
The film won the Urban Cinefile Audience Award at the 2006 Sydney Film Festival (Best Feature - Sidebar Program).
Published December 14, 2006
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FEARLESS: DVD (M)
(Hong Kong/US, 2006)
Huo Yuan Jia
CAST: Jet Li, Shido Nakamura, Nathan Jones, Collin Chou, Qijing Bao, Betty Sun, Masato Harada, Mike Leeder,
PRODUCER: William Kong
DIRECTOR: Ronny Yu
SCRIPT: Chris Chow
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Hang-Sang Poon
EDITOR: Virginia Katz, Richard Learoyd
MUSIC: Shigeru Umebayashi
OTHER: Yuen Woo-ping (fight choreography)
RUNNING TIME: 104 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: August 24, 2006
SPECIAL FEATURES: None
DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
DVD RELEASE: December 13, 2006
RIVERSIDE SNEAK PEEK PREMIERES
A program of premiere screenings of new movies prior to their commercial release
on 4 consecutive Tuesdays - March 10, 17, 24, 31, 2015 - at Riverside Theatre,
Curated & presented by Andrew L. Urban, discussion to
follow with special guests. Briefing notes provided.