Jet Li is a badass. That is really all you need to know about him. If you want to know more, just know that he won the national wushu (martial arts) championship after three years of training and retired at the age of 17. I guess it was all just too easy. Fearless is Jet Li’s self-proclaimed final wushu epic, which is something that should sadden all of us.
Fearless is a movie split into three parts. The first details Huo Yuanjia’s mastering of wushu, and his increasing ruthlessness and arrogance. This leads inevitably to the second part of his life wherein, fallen, he wanders the land trying to find meaning. Of course, in the third part he returns to his home enlightened and intent on doing good. In this case, that means fighting a bunch of westerners to reclaim Chinese pride.
The first part of the movie is pretty good. The only quibble is that the use of Matrix-style camera techniques occasionally distract from the battles leaving one a little confused as to what just happened. Other than that the choreography is pretty decent, although definitely not Jet Li’s finest. It also sets up what could be a fairly interesting story.
The middle part is kind of what ruins the movie. The story is boring and cliched, the acting pretty bad. Unfortunately, the script is not strong enough to carry the movie without the martial arts.
The final part continues to expose the flaws of the central portion of the movie, and carries them further. The ‘moral’ is heavy-handed and silly, and the plot decays further. On the plus side, this is where all the best wushu is done. The fights are pretty awesome and the use of computer effects drastically reduced.
Overall it was an okay movie. Jet Li has done better choreography and had better acting performances, and still would have even if the silly Matrix-rotate-the-camera-in-slow-motion never happened. It could have used a little more extended fighting. But the visuals in general were beautifully done and it was worth watching. Also, I think I watched the directors-cut edition, which is significantly longer and probably a little worse for the lack of editing.