Jan 26, 2006|
Set in Tianjin at the turn of the 20th century, Fearless is a patriotic kung fu flick based loosely on the life of martial artist Huo Yuanjia.
Young Huo (Jet Li) is forbidden from practicing martial arts, but he steals the moves and grows up to be a powerful, arrogant fighter obsessed with victory. After a family tragedy, he flees to a rural village and a young woman named Yuaci. As China is being dominated by foreign powers, an American wrestler named O’Brien (Nathan Jones) defeats numerous Chinese fighters in Tianjin, dismissing the Chinese as “sick men of the East.” Awakened, Huo returns to the ring.
However, a crucial part of Huo’s real life has been cut from the film: during his rural retreat, Huo encountered a Thai boxer in a tribal dispute, inspiring a lighter and more refined style called the Missing Fist. The idea is to disperse the deadly force in a fatal blow, so that it becomes harmless. With that missing brick, the film should have collapsed like a house of cards. Instead, the solid framework of Jet Li’s fighting chops and the fine choreography of Yuen Wo-ping (Kung Fu Hustle) keeps the film intact. After all, what is more important in a martial-arts flick than kick-ass moves?
Then there’s the superhero factor. At a time of Sino-American tension, Huo reawakens patriotic pride in China. He single-handedly restores the reputation of the national art in much the same way Superman single-handedly restores law and order in the United States. Hey, America, we have superheroes too.