Fearless Cover ArtItem 2 – Fearless!

Fearless is a movie based on the life of Huo Yuanjia, the founder of the Jing Wu Sports Federation in China in the early 20th century.  Yuanjia is also the master of fictional Martial Arts character Chen Zhen played by Bruce Lee in Fist of Fury (which I only reviewed a few days ago!).  Fearless was released in 2006 and Martial Arts movie star Jet Li assumed the role of Huo Yuanjia, doing an awesome job.

But much like Fist of Fury, while based on actual people and (in this case) similar events, the movie’s plot is highly glorified and altered from what the official history seems to read as.  But meh, who cares? 🙂

What’s it all about?

The movies starts off with a bang, 3 exciting fights between Yuanjia and 3 opponents, one ofter the other.  He beats these 3 opponents quite easily, and readys himself to take on the Japanese opponent Tanaka.

Shortly after this intro, that takes place just before the events at the very end of the movie, we’re taken back to Yuanjia’s childhood.

As a child, Yuanjia obsesses over learning his father’s Wushu style.  Yuanjia’s father, played by Collin Chou, forbids him to learn Wushu because of his frail condition but Yuanjia practices what he sees freely in his own time, whilst making his best friend Jinsun do all of his homework for him.

yuanjia's father

Later that day, Yuanjia watches his father in a challenge match, where Yuanjia’s father fights the head of a rival Wushu school.  He appears to winning and is about to deliver the final blow, but decides to pull at the last second, to prevent seriously injuring his opponent.  This causes his father to lose the fight, when his opponent capitalises on this, to which Yuanjia’s father graciously accepts, and publicly admits defeat.

During the fight, the son of the rival school’s fighter is taunting Yuanjia (who is of similar age), and this escalates afterward resulting in a fight that Yuanjia loses.

That moment, Yuanjia vows to never be defeated again.

Yuanjia grows up, and becomes a well versed fighter and wushu master, however he is very arrogant.  Taking on challenges from various schools, he vows to become the champion of Tianjin, openly mocking the styles of the other fighters, even proclaiming that their disciples are “not qualified” to talk to him.

He is driven to win, nothing else seems to matter.

He becomes Champion of Tianjin when he defeats and kills (in anger) his final opponent Master Chin.

Yuanjia and Master Chin

Yuanjia and Master Chin

The fight with Master Chin is brought on when a disciple of Yuanjia’s is brought to him injured, beaten by Master Chin.  Yuanjia drops everything and races downtown to find Master Chin.

After the battle however, the enraged godson of Master Chin murders Yuanjias family.  To makes things worse, he discovers that the beating given to his disciple was provoked, and that he got what was coming to him.  He then realises that the whole mess, as well as the lives of his family, could have been spared had he known this from the beginning.

It was Yuanjia’s arrogant attitude that caused his action, and triggered the tragedy afterward.

He wanders off into the country side, and ends up on a farm.  There he learns the virtue of hard work, and leading a simple lifestyle.

After a few years realising his mistakes, he returns home, where he takes on challenges from foreign fighters, but with a different goal in mind:

To bring everyone together and promote friendship through friendly competition.

The ending (spoilers) compared to history

Yuanjia ends up fighting a Japanese man named Tanaka.  The men who arranged the challenge have bet large amounts of money against Yuanjia, but decide to cement their victory by poisoning his tea.

After feeling the effects of the poison, Yuanjia decides to continue, even after Tanaka offers to fight him another day.  Like father like son, Yuanjia defeats Tanaka by performing a deadly blow, but pulling the punch.

jet li in fearlessEven after Yuanjia has fallen down, and the referee is about to announce Tanaka’s victory, he tells the referee to stop, and declares that he lost, saying that Yuanjia “got him”.

In reality, while there was suspician of Yuanjia being poisoned, it wasn’t until years later that his body was dug up and his bones were found with black spots on them.  It was concluded that he died from poisoning (aresenic), but the method behind the poison was never concluded to be intentional or accidental.

By adding this element to the movie (Yuanjia stating he was poisoned), does add a bit more depth to the ending.  Although Tanaka highly respected Yuanjia, and offered to fight another day (even before the poisoning was noticed), Yuanjia pushed forward, to continue.  This made his death in the film somewhat heroic, instead of him simply dropping dead.

Like a lot of the movie, it has been romanced a little to sell the theme behind the film.  It was however done tastefully.

Yuanjia’s change in character.

While Yuanjia started out arrogant and confident, the series of horrible events (death of his family, Master Chin and his Godson) really affected his character.  The years on the farm brought him down to earth a bit.  In one scene he is helping with some farm work, and in  highly competitive fashion, attempts to get more work done than his fellow co workers.  Of course he rushes and botches the job!

Yuanjia being helped by Moon

He then learns that the workers are happy working at a good pace, not trying to outdo each other and even stopping to enjoy the finer things (like a cool mountain breeze that regularly flows through).

This seems to be somewhat of a pivot point for Yuanjia’s way of  thinking.  Even some of his final words in the film are to tell his disciples “not to take revenge” and preaches to compete to learn not to win. During his battle with the foreign fighters he becomes friendly to all in his victory, trying to forge friendships and bring people together.

I think the major message in this film is about living with goals that are more selfless than selfish, which is communicated well through Jet Li’s portrayal of Huo Yuanjia.

 The Martial Arts & The Fight Scenes

The Fights are all choreographed pretty well and are quite exciting.  The fights scenes are pretty frequent, you’re not left sitting through the whole movie just to see the fights at the end – I like that 🙂 Each fight is very unique and different from the other.  Different weapons and Kung Fu styles are used throughout the entire movie to add variety and stop the action from going stale.

Jet Li’s performance is very Jet Li, constantly changing levels – ducking, jumping, kicking and punching with some fancier movies thrown in to the mix.

This is a movie that uses wire work in it’s fight scenes.  I usually can’t stand overused wire work but this movie has done it tastefully.  While there is a decent amount of it, it’s not the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon style that’s similar to footage of people walking on the moon.

The occasional supernatural jump, kick or slide is really blended into the fights quite well, and still keeps a level of intensity in the fights.

If you’re a fan of Jet Li’s earlier work, this is somewhere between that and the more realistic fight scenes you see today.

Where can you find this movie?

Of course if you want to check out this movie for yourself, it’s well worth it!  Below is where you can find it on Bluray & DVD, split up into each region (More info on DVD & Blu Ray regions here)

On Blu Ray –

Region A (US & Canada)
Jet Li’s Fearless on Amazon.com

Region B (UK, Australia, New Zealand, Europe, etc)
Fearless on Blu-Ray [Region Free]

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
Jet Li’s Fearless on DVD at Amazon.com

Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
Fearless on DVD

Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
Fearless on DVD

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