Director: Ronny Yu / Script: Chris Chow / DP: Hang Sang Poon / Editor: Virginia Katz / Music: Shigeru Umebayashi
Cast: Jet Li / Li Sun / Yong Dong
In which a plodding Noddy is prodded to produce a maddeningly odd pudding.
For the record, I know as much about the Chinese / HK ‘Wushu’ school of Martial-art, as I do about the back end of the Moon, so I came to Fearless with an open mind.
Released in 2006, it was billed as the last fight movie of genre superstar Jet Li, and given the budget, it’d need to become ‘the last word in the genre’. It’s easy to see why many believe that goal was achieved: combat here is fluid, balletic, dangerous. Director Yu keeps the camera moving and gets excellent coverage.
It’s just a pity then, that it falls down everywhere else.
The script (a biopic of Huo Yuanjia, a past master of the discipline and founder of its governing body) is about as agile as a sloth negotiating treacle. It’s all here: stolen glances at a beautiful girl on the path to redemption. Teasing / mocking / reproachful elder. Old friend who’s seen it all, yet still comes through in a pinch. Faithful family retainer who’s been keeping the family seat warm while Junior gets his head together.
Then there’s the crane… The camera swoops into virtually every external location and pans around the action with the giddy excitement of a drunk teenager on a playground roundabout. It’s as though the producers cut a dodgy deal with the rental firm and opted to use it as often as possible before they repossessed it; I’m sure if Director Yu could’ve gotten away with it, he’d have used it for his close-ups as well!
Still, for all that, Fearless was a rewarding glimpse into an unfamiliar genre. Had I been more familiar with its tropes, I might’ve seen things differently, but I can only judge on what I see.
And what I see (an astonishing series of fight sequences grafted onto a clumsy narrative), ‘ain’t good enough. It might very well be ‘the last word’ in its genre, but compared to everything else out there, that last word might be ‘AVERAGE’, which surely counts as a disappointment, right?
Pussy claw? It’s Tiger Claw!