(In theaters, August 2004) Wow! After seeing the film, it’s hard to understand why Miramax held on to it for so long: While it may not be the most profound martial arts film ever shot, it certainly ranks up there as one of the most beautiful, along with a pleasing patina of sophistication when it comes to plotting. At first, it appears as if Jet Li plays a stoic warrior asked to tell the emperor the story of how he managed to kill three ferocious would-be assassins. But that’s not the real story, and that’s what we slowly discover as the film progresses. It’s not a complicated plot, but the structure is unusual enough to keep us interested. Of course, the fights are the core of the film’s appeal. Mercifully well-edited, they flow seamlessly and end slightly before we grow tired of them. But what puts this film over and above its comparable brethren is the flawless cinematography, which paints every fight scene with a very different colour palette. Digital effects are sagaciously used to heighten the sense of unreality that make this film so unique. In the end, Hero achieves an unusual distinction: that of being a martial art film of interest even to people without much interest in martial films.