"Fearless" is Ronny Yu's true directorial masterpiece (although I do love "Freddy Vs Jason" but its hard to call that any form of masterpiece). Loosely based on the life and rise of Huo Yuanjia, whom is somewhat of a legend in Chinese Martial Arts for those of you who didn't know, this film has a lot of things to love and little to criticize.
Firstly, Jet Li as Huo Yuanjia is a great casting choice. Not only is he bank in the box office (at the time of release particularly), but he is a true martial arts master, and a great actor. This is one of his better performances in his catalog (compared to "Romeo Must Die" its fucking gold) and the story itself is wonderfully told and expressed. I do recommend seeing the Director's Cut for its massive amounts of additional scenes that add lots of great subtext, although the opening and closing modern day debates are a little left field, but that's a small complaint. Overly, its a wonderfully told story of a man rising from the ashes to learn life lessons in how to live and seeing the bigger picture. The supporting cast is also stellar with particular note to the subtle work of Shido Nakamura as the Japanese fighter at the end, whom steals a few of the scenes.
The choreography is also quite stellar with many fights ranging from pillar topped cliffhangers, fist fights aplenty, and some dazzling sword play. Not perhaps the most unique and impressive fight scenes in some of these films ("Hero" still has some of my favorites) but they compliment and move the story nicely along.
Some of my main complaints come with the pacing of the film and its quick time shifts. Although this film has to take place through a variety of stages in the character's life, some of the transitions might have been a little smoother. The film is practically built on full on 'acts' like a theatrical performance would be. His childhood, his rise and fall as teacher in the city, his learning time in the village, and his return to ring. Each section is wonderful at what it does but some of the transitions between them tend to either happen too quickly or jump to far. It's perhaps my one complaint on the film as a whole, and with its epic story its rather small in the end.
"Fearless" is one of Jet Li's best films to date and a must see for any Kung Fu fan. Beautiful backdrops, top notch acting, and stellar story full of nicely laid out fight scenes make this a necessary watch. Definitely one of my favorite Martial Arts films made.
Written By Matt Reifschneider