Huo Yuanjia [Fearless] (2006)

(In theaters, September 2006) If Jet Li sticks to his promise and truly retires from martial art movies after this one, it will be a perfect capstone to a career that spans films such as Once Upon A Time In China and Hero, other historical martial epics with a fierce nationalistic spirit. Somewhat more accomplished that the usual martial arts film, Fearless gives itself permission to explore the darker side of an accomplished martial artist, and the redemption that must follow excess. It can often feel like several movies blended into one, but it’s seldom less than interesting, and the conclusion does play into the “Jet Li’s final film” hype. There’s plenty of historical content for history buffs, and the fight scenes are often thrilling (with a special mention to the fight taking place on an elevated platform, though I doubt that the crowd on the ground would have been so thrilled.) A solid film, not the classic that was Hero, but a suitable last chapter to Li’s martial-arts phase.

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