Strange how I feel scared in giving my piece of comments about the film, as opposed to its title.
And the more I feel my fear, the stranger it becomes since I grew up with gong-fu genre. Back in 1980s when Beta videocassettes ruled the world the way DVD does now, I was exposed to the world of martial arts films, thanks to my parents’ weekly visit to a video rental store nearby. Thus, I heartily understand that beneath a simple plot which usually revolves around revenges and preserving dignity of the main characters, lies words of wisdom flowing towards the end of the films. In addition, I am also aware that for male-centred stories, the ladies have to step aside to become backdrops of the films, but for female-centred stories, the guys will always be the sidekicks, or the villains.
The rules are what makes Fearless is a sacred film to look up to.
First, the film does not try to pay tribute or homage to the genre, nor it tries to enhance with overused CGI-ladden visual effects that work well with confusing Hero and not with plot-less The Promise.
Fearless gives indeed what an old time gong-fu flick had: a simple storyline that requires your brain to rest and to blink once in a while to alert yourself on your whereabout, and open your eyes widely for action sequences exquisitely choreographed by the master himself, Woo-ping Yuen.
Second, the inescapable notion that the film would be Jet Li’s last martial arts film affects our judgment, and as much as we laugh over predictable sequences, be them during action scenes or those very few dialogue ones, there seems to be a bound to respect his effort to be back to the root that brings him fame and fortune to the global world of film.
Thus, it is only right then to applaud the filmmakers involved to choose a story which leaves no potential sequels behind to avoid any further cliche that would only bring down Li’s hard-earned reputation as a martial arts actor who ages well like a fine wine. Take a look at his multi-layered facial expressions in some dramatic scenes, a great departure from what he initially came up with more than two decades back.
I tip my hat off, take a bow, and salute Jet Li, leaving my fear behind and closing the chapter of his terrifying Hollywood years with what he knows best, a martial arts film. Period.