jet li’s “final martial arts epic” fearless finally came out here. about 15 minutes into the movie i turned to nigel and said, “i’ve seen this movie before and it even starred jet li.” i incorrectly named the previous incarnation as fong sai yuk when it was wong fei hung otherwise known as once upon a time in china. (fong sai yuk is the legend in english.) if you saw once upon a time, you know the story. martial artist obsessed with fighting other chinese to be named the best in china eventually realizes his efforts are best spent uniting the chinese against the foreigners in shanghai who are out to carve up and destroy china in the 1840s – the english, french, americans and japanese.
only this time the movie was not a “martial arts epic,” it was propoganda thinly disguised as the standard jet li fare. like totally standard jet li fare on the order of danny the dog boy or black mask. not even allegorical propoganda hidden in a genuinely good movie like hero. no this was the most blunt, obtuse attempt at propoganda ever, in a movie with such crappy special effects that there were actually visual breaks in the film when the scene switched from live action to CG. and the quality of the propoganda wasn’t much better. in addition to the usual “duty above honor” and “sacrifice one man for the good of all china” themes explored in hero, there was the foreigners are bad, and japan is the worst (well according to the movie the japanese government is the worst, but the people are actually pretty cool) and new listen to your elders and don’t let foreign temptations cause you to abondon your good chinese values themes. all of which were presented in such a way that no one, no matter how thick could not fail to see.
there were some good fight scenes. not hero good. but good. the usual fight on a platform, fights with various weapon, fights with death blows and the predictable jet li vs. super tall over-roidy white guy fight. all in all it would have been a perfectly acceptable jet li movie without the preaching. so as with most decent martial arts flicks, i say netflix or download it and fast forward to the fight scenes. skip the story.
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