Fearless. You won’t see too many film reviews from me here, since the last one I think I saw in a theater was Syriana in December. I missed every film fest and film screening, but at my local video store, they had Ronny Yu’s Fearless. We interviewed him in GR42, and I never did get to see this film. The typical videos don’t have English subtitles, but leave it to the Koreans, when it doubt, Korean versions often have them. This one did.
I’ve seen my share of martial arts flicks. They’re roughly the same. From way back, it’s the (in fast nasal man subtitle voice), “You killed my brother… prepare to die” genres. Then it’s the “you shamed my family” genres. Bruce Lee did his share of good films that stand alone from that time period. But then somewhere in the later 90s it became the flying shit. Like The Greatest American Hero or even The Monkeys, people started to fly.
Jet Li brings everything together, but takes things one step further in Fearless. This isn’t a film just about fighting, although those scenes are fun. It’s basically about a family of kung fu fighters in a town in Shanghai, battling in each other in a public forum – a center stage. Jet look like he’s at his peak in these scenes even though he’s probably in his 40s! After misunderstandings, pompous times as a champ, then misguided decisions based on fists and not heart, Jet Li starts back on the bottom.
Mixing martial arts with weapons, acrobatics, and choreography by Yuen Woo Ping, and with a heavy dose of philosophy, this film is more than a fairy tale. Remember when kung fu films included thought? Although it’s overt it fits Jet Li’s character and his own personal legend as well. Jet didn’t write the shit, but he delivered the lines as if they were from his heart. Martial arts isn’t about fighting or defending honor, it’s more than that, right? Even though you could have easily learned it from Miyagi in the Karate Kid, or Kane from Kung Fu, those are long gone. Fearless brings the thought and mind back to martial arts.
Forget the dog collars to hide his bad English, stupid Asian mystical massage potions disguised as kisses of dragons, or long rat tail hair cuts, he’s best as an old school martial artist. If Jet Li decided to retire from film today, then this is a way to go out.