Jet Li claims that Fearless is his last action movie, which is a rather dubious claim but a claim nonetheless. Fans looking for Li to go out with a bang will not be overly disappointed, although the film is certainly not as exciting as one would expect.
Fearless follows the life as Huo Yuanjia, as he grows from a weak boy of a wushu master to the greatest master in China. As he rises in dominance and popularity, he becomes overly ambitious and reckless. After an ill-advised fight leaves many of his followers dead, Huo Yuanjia abandons his role and flees into the countryside, where he is finally discovered and nursed back to full health, both physically and mentally, by a lovely young woman. When he returns, he is even better than he used to be, but threats now no longer come from China but from the world. A championship fighting tournament has been established to pit Huo Yuanjia against the top four fighters in the world.
The movie succeeds in several facets. For one, the action is pretty good. There are a couple of obvious wire moments, but for the most part the action is fast, long and violent. There are several nasty shots where bones are broken, but overall Fearless is relatively bloody. Surprisingly, there is one very brutal fight sequence that also serves as the movie's best.
At the same time, there isn't as much action as one would expect. The movie has a few more dramatic elements than others, and the focus is more on this real life character than on the action. Huo Yuanjia is responsible for creating the Jin Wu Sports Federation, and this is the story of how he came to form the modern establishment. That being said, there are a few parts that drag just a little bit, especially when Li wanders aimlessly through the countryside. I can't say Li is the most convincing of serious actors, and there are a few slightly unbelievable parts.
However, my only big complaint with the film is its failure to go the whole nine yards with the final fight sequence. Li takes on four fighters, but the movie only shows his battle with the final man. What better time to have an action spectacular such as Li taking on four fighters one at a time?
Jet Li's Fearless is a well done picture with some good action sequences and a nice story of a man who falls from greatness and rises once again. The movie isn't Li's best nor his most exciting, but is a good entry in the collection.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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