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The son of a great fighter who did not wish for his child to follow in his footsteps, bullied Huo Yuanjia resolves to teach himself how to fight anyway--and win. Years of training enable him to ace match after match in his home region of Tianjin. But as his fame as a martial arts master grows, so does his pride. After an ill-advised fight leads to another Master's death, members of Huo's family are slain in revenge. Grieving and ashamed, Huo wanders the country in shock. Near death, he is rescued by women from an idyllic village, and is offered simple kindness and generosity that help him heal and regain his equilibrium over a period of several years. Huo realizes that the future of martial arts lies in sportsmanship and not brutality, and he rejoins society to apply what he has learned. Returning to Tianjin, Huo takes steps to come to terms with his past and restore his family's name. His evolving, graceful "Mizong (Missing) Fist" method of fighting brings Huo renewed success, and he forms the progressive Jingwu Sports Federation. Taking note, duplicitous members of the Foreign Chamber of Commerce engineer a Shanghai tournament pitting Huo against four fighters, each representing the major foreign powers in China. Huo commits to the bout and faces off against, respectively, a British boxer, a Spanish swordsman, a Belgian soldier and a Japanese martial artist. What happened that day in 1910 has never been, and will never be, forgotten in China.
For more about Fearless and the Fearless Blu-ray release, see Fearless Blu-ray Review published by Sir Terrence on December 22, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Jet Li, Betty Sun, Dong Yong, Collin Chou, Shidô Nakamura
Director: Ronny Yu
» See full cast & crew
Fearless Blu-ray Review
Reviewed by Sir Terrence, December 22, 2008
Fearless is supposed to be Jet Li last martial arts movie, and what a movie it is. Fearless is loosely based on the real life of Huo Yuanjia, an early twentieth century martial arts master, and co-founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association. His was a national hero in China, and inspired national pride when he challenged foreign fighters, and beat them. As a result of Huo popularity, it is very difficult to sort fact from fiction when it comes to his life, but his great grandson has asked for an apology from Li, as the film had taken profound liberties with the truth for entertainment purposes. Since this film was loosely based on Huo Yuanjia life, no apology was given, and any legal action would not have likely been beneficial to his great grandson based on that fact.
Fearless is presented in three different ways on this disc, the unrated, the theatrical, and the directors cut. The directors cut, in my opinion is the reference and the other two vary in different ways to that reference. The theatrical and the unrated version seemed flat, un-evolving, and incomplete when compared to the directors cut. The editing down of these versions left out vast pieces of detail that are definitely needed to complete the story, accurate or not One thing is for certain, the picture that Ronnie Yu wanted to make was definitely more grand and cinematic than your average martial arts fair, and he was largely very successful. However, what was probably not expected was its failure at the box office. In watching this film, you can see why Li fans would be disappointed with this movie. You would expect that Li would leave the martial art film genre with the air filled with kicks, punches, sword slashes, and blood squirting everywhere. You get that, but then are side tracked by Huo's downfall, and his process of redemption which slows this movie down to a crawl, but gives what would have been a one dimensional movie some very profound depth. This film dares to break free of its action roots to develop characters, and present some real depth and gravity. If you watched the theatrical version, you will find the directors cut makes this film whole and complete, and definitely worth watching again.
We begin Fearless with Huo Yuanjina fighting 3 Americans, a boxer, a spear fighter, and a fencer. Huo beats them all rather handily, and then bows to his opponents. Just before the fight Huo has a flashback to when he was a small boy. His father was a great fighter, but did not want his son to follow in his footsteps. So he refused to teach him to fight, but Huo watched him, and learned from him teaching himself to fight in the process. Huo then witnesses his father losing a battle is a dishonorable way, as his opponent strikes after the winning blow has been stuck which should have ended the fight. Huo is then taunted by the son of the cheating fighter, and then is beaten up by him as he then swears he will never lose again.
Years pass, and Huo grows to be a very powerful fighter winning over and over again. He becomes known as the one of the greatest fighter in his region of China. However as he continues to win, he becomes over confident and arrogant, and increasingly ruthless in his fighting. He is challenged by another martial arts master Master Chin, after Chin injures one of Huo followers. Huo fights him and defeats him, trashing Chin's restaurant in the process. When he returns home, he finds out his mother and sister have been killed as revenge to Chin's death. Later Huo returns to his birthplace to find it a different place. It has been transformed from a small rural village to a now bustling city. Meanwhile an American fighter Hercules O'Brien is making headlines defeating Chinese fighters, and is challenged by Huo. Huo defeats him, much to the astonishment of foreigners, but to the admiration and respect of O'Brien for sparing his life. But fearing anti Chinese sentiment from the west, the members of the Foreign Chambers of Commerce arrange for a fight between Huo and four western fighters, a British Boxer, German Lancer, a Spanish Fencer, and a Japanese martial artist. As one can expect, the outcome of this battle will not be what anyone expects.
Fearless Blu-ray, Video Quality
Fearless graces its way into the Bluray format in a beautiful 1080p/VC-1 video encode, framed at a wide 2:40:1 original aspect ratio. You have a choice to view the Directors cut, the theatrical and unrated cuts via seamless branching. This movie is just gorgeous to watch, excelling in every film related aspect possible. The source is absolute pristine, clean, and first rate without a single film related issue visually found. Film grain is well managed, but always apparent giving this film a very organic looking quality that I love about film. Detail is first rate, revealing everything caught within lens sight with exceptional clarity and depth. Colors are deeply saturated with no chroma noise or bleeding to be seen. The use of color in this film is highly stylized, but never being distractive, or taking away a single thing visually. Images always looked natural, down to skin tones, food, clothes, trees, water, no matter what the camera captures it looks totally natural. Blacks are inky deep, stable, with no crush to found. Contrast can be at times extreme in the brightest whites, but overall very good if not excellent. This film visual dynamic is astounding, with quite of bit of punch delivered in almost every scene. I saw no instances of edge enhancement, but what keeps me from giving this film a perfect score is a brief bit of aliasing/moiré on some clothing with tightly knit patterns on them. Fearless looks positively beautiful on Bluray, and if you were not knick picking, perfect. I would recommend however (like I would on all videos) that you watch this film in total darkness, any source of ambient light can wash out detail in the darkest scenes, and quite frankly there are many of them in this movie.
Fearless Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Universal has produced a masterpiece of a 5.1 Dts-HD Master Audio sound track encoded at a full 24/48 kHz that I would call a must listen for any student of film audio mixing. This sound track is so nimble its not funny; being subtle, complex, dynamically aggressive, sparse, dense, quiescent, and suddenly loud and powerful at any point in the film. As natural as the video looks, the sound is equally natural sounding, but with just a nudge of processing and punch on certain sound effects. The sound is open, midrange sweet, lower mids and bass tight and full, and there is just a slight roll off of the upper frequencies that allow the sound to be played louder, be keeps it from having that last bit of air that some of the best sound tracks exhibit. The LFE is used very effectively, is powerful, tight, articulate, and room filling. The full 360 degree sound stage is highly layered, but starting from right at the front of my speakers, extending to the front wall, from side wall to side wall, and from floor to ceiling. Sound effects, dialog and music are embedded into the huge sound field which makes you feel like you are in the middle of the action no matter what scene. Foley detail, ADR, and on location audio is perfectly blended, and extremely well integrated together with the Shigeru Umebayashi's score and sound effects. While each had its place in the sound field, nothing steps on each other no matter how dense the mix gets. This sound track is a perfect compliment to the excellent cinematography of this film.
Fearless Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Extras on this disc are sparse, and consists of aFeaturette:A Fearless Journey (16 minutes) a routine making of documentary featuring Jet Li, Director Ronny Yu, and other cast members and crew.
Also offered on this disc is the ability to bookmark (or save) you favorite scenes, or scenes you would like to revisit after stopping the player and turning it off
Fearless Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
While neither Jet Li fans nor critics necessarily went crazy over Fearless, it is likely their judgment was based on viewing the theatrical and international versions of this film. I am sure after seeing the directors cut; their collective minds will be changed. It really paints a different picture on this film and fills in the gaps lost in editing. I highly recommend this film, as you get fairly high quality martial arts epic with excellent picture and audio quality. This is no masterpiece, but it is certainly comparable to Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, but falls in my opinion short of the excellent movie Curse of the Golden Flower. For anyone into martial arts movies like I am, you must have this movie in your collection. If you are not a buyer, by all means rent this movie. You are sure to have an evening of quality entertainment.
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