Although Jet Li’s Fearless may be his last traditional martial arts film, committing only to future action movies, it is safe to say that he is going out with a kick. Fearless rivals the highly acclaimed Hero as his best martial arts film since he achieved global superstardom, and Li believes that it was the “most personal and important martial arts movie,” he had ever done.The movie, which is completely subtitled, was directed by Ronny Yu and chronicles the story of Wushu master, Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) from his early childhood years to his untimely death as a man who fought to inspire a nation and bring strength back to his country.
Yuanjia, who was weak and often ill as a child, was denied the opportunity to learn Wushu by his father, who was a Wushu master as well. In the film, Yuanjia was determined to learn how to fight and over many years taught himself the art form.
He eventually becomes so skilled that his arrogance precedes his talent, and he spirals out of control throwing into motion events that force him to wander the countryside where he goes through a period of rediscovery. He learns that “martial arts is a discipline that promotes peace, not violence.”
Fearless is more than a mere martial arts flick. Li, Yu, and producer Bill Kong (Unleashed) all felt very strongly about the film and its massive success in Asia was a good indication of its almost guaranteed success in the States.
While there are slight discrepancies between the story of Yu’s Yuanjia and the real-life Yuanjia, the peacful message evoked from his life and from the fighting federation that he creates are maintained.
Yuanjia based the Jingwu Sports Federation, which now has branches in over 50 countries, on the importance of the “body, mind and soul,” and the film is evident of those facets.
Li, as well as the supporting actors, do a good job of portraying the characters they play and each are well developed in the 103-minute flick. Li seems to be a markedly better actor when speaking Chinese. The action sequences are also well choreographed and are spaced out far enough where it does not seem as though they were arbitrarily thrown in to keep the audience on their toes.Fearless is a great film for anyone who is a fan of martial arts and action movies alike.
And to those who are irritated by subtitles – realize that if the movie was dubbed, it would significantly lose its impact, and its that which keeps the film true to its martial arts roots.