review by Neo
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Jet Li is
Fok Yuen Gap!
Of all the actors that Neo admired, there is one that he admired the most and can almost boast to be the only actor that Neo have watched every single one of his movies and this great talent is Jet Li. Perhaps, it is his heroic roles that made me a fan, but really it is his fighting abilities and unique on screen presence that made him such a respectable character. Recalling the days when I watched my first ever Jet Li's movie - Fist of Legend, it reminded me of Chinese pride and more importantly it sparked myself into HK cinema fascination. It was Li, not Jackie Chan that got me into HK cinema and now with the rumor-like announce of partial retirement by Mr. Jet Li, it is fittingly that a long time fan paid tribute to what has been a brilliant career by any standards. In his latest blockbuster - Fearless, Li has matured and his philosophy into life is all the more evident and after years of talking about - "violence without violence" on his own official website, his insight in the world of wushu have finally emerged to audience around the globe. This is a period flick and a fittingly finale as Li's final wushu movie, as the plot isn't deliver by fighting physically, but rather - the true meaning of martial arts - fighting a battle in our hearts. This is no ordinary action blockbuster, but one that reinforce my race, nationality and finally - pride of being a Chinese.
The movie goes like this: This film tells the story of Chinese Martial Arts Master Huo Yuanjia (1869~1910). Huo Yuanjia was the founder and spiritual guru of the Jin Wu Sports Federation.
To be perfectly frank, 2005 HK cinema was crap and in a rare sight no more was given a 10/10 even by my extremely comforting standards. Therefore to start off 2006 with a movie that Neo is loving, it is an enormous shock and surprise. While one may call Li's best is behind him - OUATIC series, Fong Sai Yuk, Fist of Legend, Swordsman 2 and more recently Hero, it may well be physically, but his acting has improved and matured. In what I will label as Li's most difficult role - as he played 2 very different characters - Fong Sai Yuk's carefree style in the beginning to respected hero in the form of Wong Fei Hung at the end. His range was naturally forced and his critically acclaimed stoic face provides a much hidden message behind a great man - Fok Yuen Gaap. In an age where all action movies are seemlessly cliché with a main bad villain that the hero is trying to beat, Fearless heads up the standard to be above the rest, by not having any true villain, but rather expressing a deep and profound message - the biggest enemy is indeed ourselves. Winning isn't everything, and being able to beat someone physically does not make you superior, but rather winning in your heart is far more important.
Surely a Jet Li's movie can not be without brilliant fight scenes and once again Li and Yuen Woo Ping is a perfect combination. Woo Ping is perhaps the best fight director and somehow his best is always within a Jet Li's movie. Li is flawless and perhaps is still very much in his prime and his personal charisma can not be doubted. His steer presence alone is amazing and if they is one actor who don the half bald head more naturally, it must be Jet Li. Maybe, he was born for that period or maybe he is at his best with that hairstyle.
Actress Sun Li performs with just enough grace and cuteness for us to care about her character, while it may seem forced to have such a cliché redeeming character, in Fearless it just sort of clicks. The both Li shared a reasonable chemistry and if only more time is spent in this part, the movie emotional core might even go further. However, what made this movie works is definitely a return to form by Hollywood-converted - Ronny Yu. Just like most biography flicks, the audience probably already know the fate of the hero - so how can you make someone feel the emotions when they already know the result. That is exactly the genius of Yu, and on the way he created a new type of action movie - its not about fighting and kicking ass, but about the heart and spirit of the game, nation and pride. In dealing with patriotic senses - proud of being Chinese, Yu has pressed all the right buttons for an utterly terrific yet emotionally manipulative finale. Yu really knows how to finish off, as if it was delivered by a lesser director the movie may have a very different value and perception.
Certainly the fights are amazing to endure - Big Guy vs Jet Li and the finale honorable Japanese vs Jet Li fight, but the most amazing of all is not the hardcore fighting, but the moral message about the true art of wushu that it is delivering. Fighting and hurting others physically will not solve any problems, but rather creates further problems that one can not imagine - anger leads to revenge and finally to murder and deaths. In a way it is true that people learn from their mistakes, but perhaps Jet Li learned a lesson that was much too harsh - sure he was rash, ambitious and unforgiving, but he certainly did not deserve his fate. However, it is human nature to keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again, until it finally hits you in the heart that you began to change. Life isn't about winning this and winning that, but it is about the human spirit, proud of who you are, being confidence yet without overdoing it, and quite frankly and directly the biggest enemy is indeed yourself. Li taught us a worthy lesson and in the process also entertained us with an epic. Sure the title is Fok Yuen Gap, but to me, this movie isn't so much about Fok, but rather Li as a character, his life and his true spirit of wushu... In other words, Neo loved it!
I rate it 10/10
on this movie on HK Neo Reviews Forum
Genre: Action / Drama
Director: Director: Ronny Yu
Cast: Jet Li, Betty Sun Li, Collin Chou, Shidou Nakamura
Reviewed by Andrew (Neo), March 2006