movrev: Fearless starring Jet Li
5 stars: Not just a fantastic martial arts moving, but an instant classic
Jet Li, champion wushu practicioner and martial arts movies star, has out done not only himself, but other martial artists as well. He, along with director Ronny Yu create not only one of the best martial arts films ever, but an excellent historical story about a man’s (Huo Yuanjia) conflict with himself, on his journey to represent an entire country.
This movie showcases some of the most magnificently staged sparring, including matching and different styles and weapons. The first two major fights are “wushu vs. wushu” style fights, as Huo Yuanjia, who taught himself wushu against his father’s wishes, tries to egotistically turn himself into a local champion, forgetting what his parents tried to teach him, forgetting what wushu and the martial arts are truly about and going only for personal glory. Due to circustances about the 2nd of these fights that should not be revealed, he exiles himself, and learns through self-examination and self-awareness the lessons his parents were teaching.
Upon returning, and seeing the ridicule forced upon the Chinese by other countries at that time (1900’s), he takes on the reigning US Champion Hercules O’Brien (played by Nathan Jones, WWF wrestling champion). Truly one of the best choreographed fights in recent film history, the massive Jones against the dimunitive Li is one of the martial highlights of the film.
Huo Yuanjia, with the help of his childhood friend, then founds the Jin Wu Sports Federation (still in existence today), to rebuild pride in China.
The beginning and ending of the film spotlights Huo Yanjia vs. four champions (three from the west and one from Japan). The bonus material in the film briefly reviews these four champions true to life martial arts expertise and experience, giving credence to why these fights scenes are so amazingly real.
The bonus material, especially the “Fearless Journey” piece, is an excellent albeit short review of Jet Li’s vision of wushu.
This movie is on my list of top ten martial arts films of all time, besting even Jet Li’s Fists of Legend and some of Bruce Lee’s best. While the martial arts sequences are the centerpiece, the story represents truly what wushu and martial arts are about: the struggle we all have with ourselves to be better tomorrow that we are today. It is an enjoyable film to watch.