Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Movie Review
Martial arts are taken to the next level in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a movie that breaks all the rules about kung fu movies being mindless. Last year, The Matrix showed that a smart plot and fast and furious action scenes can be blended together, but that movie didn't take that meld to the epic level, as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's a revenge story, a love story, and an action movie all in one, and people of all genres can come together and enjoy it.
Chow Yun Fat, Michelle Yeoh, and Zhang Ziyi star, all as people who possess the power to fly through the air, catch darts in mid-air, and kick ass at will. Chow is a warrior who has given up his sword, but then forced to retrieve it when it is stolen by someone trained in the same arts he is. He also realizes that his arch nemesis, Jade Fox, is involved. Both Chow and Yeoh deliver the best performances I've seen of them yet.
But the show stealer is Zhang Ziyi, the young, beautiful daughter who doesn't want to be married to the man she loves and also has an incredible secret; she is one of the best fighters in China. Not only does she explode onto the screen in appearance and martial arts skill, but she also does an incredible acting job. Her character, by far, is the main character, and her back story is the most involved, and the most interesting.
The movie is incredibly shot, with beautiful scenery and a lively, ancient world. Ang Lee, the director of the sub par Ride With the Devil and boring Sense and Sensibility has rejuvenated himself with the dramatic, mesmerizing, action-packed mystic tale called Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
The movie is dramatic to the heart, but the action scenes are a big part of the film as well. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon isn't nonstop action but at the same time has several incredible action scenes, each one longer than the one before. There are two extraordinary fight scenes - the bar fight and the sword fight between Michelle Yeoh and Zhang Ziyi - that will stick in my mind for a long time. Ang Lee uses ropes freely, making the characters fly, run up walls, and duel on flimsy tree branches. It takes a little getting used to (some may say it looks mystical; others may say it looks cheesy - I say it is both), but works with the movie. Either way, the point is that Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has some very memorable action scenes.
There are only a few very minor flaws. The smaller budget (smaller than normal Hollywood fare, that is) shows through sometimes, whether in the quality of shots or other, but the movie is so majestic that it doesn't really matter. My only other grievance is that the ending seems sort of short; a nice, long battle scene between Chow and Cheng (who plays Jade Fox) would have been nice.
Still, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is one of the best films of the year. It has a good script, it's dramatic, and it has some of the coolest action scenes you'll see ever. Furthermore, the right choice was made in having this movie be subtitled, not dubbed. I'm waiting to see this movie at the Academy Awards.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.