Biography of the renowned Chinese Martial Arts Master Huo Yuanjia, founder of the Jin Wu Sports Federation.
Jet Li was an ageing martial arts movies superstar by the time Fearless was released. That didn’t stop him from delivering one of his most memorable performances in a career marked by memorable performances. In it he portrays the nationalistic fights of Huo Yuanjia who upheld Chinese martial arts pride by fighting and defeating several foreigners, Chinese, Japanese, American and European.
Li beautifully showcases the wushu style in superbly choreographed fight sequences amidst the backdrop of Chinese patriotism. What sets Fearless apart from dozens of other martial arts movies is that it does justice not just to the fight sequences but also the plot and story-telling.
One fight is on a small wooden platform raised some fifty feet high above the usual fighting square and the cameras shoot from below the fighters framing the clear blue sky, they shoot from beside the fighters framing the roofs and rooftop flags of the province, they shoot from above the fighters framing the excitable audience several feet below. Li “walks” half way up to the platform via a stairway of successively higher wooden poles and then impatiently swings to the platform on a rope and climbs up the remaining half using that rope.
In another fight Li faces the seven-foot tall giant, Nathan Jones who not only seems twice as tall as Li but at least twice as broad and thrice as muscular. As they enter the ring we see how skewed the contest is when the towering Jones climbs in above the ropes as Li comes in from below.
In one sequence Li challenges a series of fighters all at once and over a dozen of them leap onto the fighting arena as the camera circles the scene of action.
What sets Fearless apart from dozens of other martial arts movies is that it does justice not just to the fight sequences but also the plot and story-telling.
Li faces from fearsome fighters - fencers, lancers, boxers, kickboxers- and he battles with swords, sticks and with the bare hand. Some sequences are sheer poetry in motion even when there's no rival - Li alone in a grassy field, practising his moves in full flow.
Li’s transformation from arrogant and conceited champion to humble and gracious martial arts exponent showcases his acting prowess in a fighting role. During the course of the movie his rivals (and the audience) move from viewing him with fear and awe to honour and respect. Slow motion or not, this movie is in a class by itself celebrating through brilliant direction (Ronny Yu) and action choreography, the beauty and timelessness of the martial arts.