Based on a true story, Jet Liï¿½s Fearless takes place just after the turn of the 20th century. Huoï¿½s father is challenged and beaten by the leader of the Zhao Clan leading to sheer embarrassment for everyone involved. Soon Huo Yuanija, his son, suffers a similar fate. Only Huo swears to never let a beating like this occur again. Huo wants nothing more in the world than for his father to teach him the way of the wushu, which is the way of fighting. The problem is that Huo doesnï¿½t tend to put his heart in the right places. He hates studying his medicine and doing his calligraphy leaving his mother to tell him that wushu is not all about winning, but rather about patience and self-discipline.
The film flashes forward a few years reveling to us that Huo is grown with a daughter. His mother insists he be married once more but getting the Huo Clanï¿½s respect and power back is far too important for him to ever consider marriage. Being the champion of Tianjin is the single most important aspect of Huoï¿½s life. Huo eventually defeats his childhood enemy gaining not only respect for himself and his family but also the entire city. Master Yuanjia is back and here to stay. Master Huo soon develops an intense following as nearly every citizen begs to either be taught Wushu or begs to join him.
Despite an impressive tally of 38 consecutive victories, Master Huo decides to fight the great Master Chin, a foe equally feared and respected around the city, after Chin attacks one of Huoï¿½s students. Huoï¿½s best friend tells Huo that he has no chance of winning. The fighting sequence between these two was amazing though. The rest, which comes as no surprise as it was revealed on the back of the case, sees Huo fight some of the best and ferocious fighters around the world.
The single greatest strength of the film, besides the interesting story, were the amazing choreographed fighting sequences by master Yuen Wo Ping (famous for The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). A scene of particular note occurs 27 minutes into the film where Huo, having defeated nearly every competitor, issues a challenge to anyone. In a scene of brilliance 20-30 men rush the stage. This subtle scene was choreographed perfectly as Huo single-handedly removes all his foes.
Another big strength I found was that I loved watching Liï¿½s journey throughout the film starting with his desire to fight, travels through his ups and downs, all while keeping his face up knowing that he has become an almost worshipped type figure to his followers. Li is a charismatic actor, one that always seems to bring a sense of style and power to his roles. He doesnï¿½t bring in the biggest amount of bank, but his films arenï¿½t about making money, but more about the depth of the story presented.
Speaking of the story, even though this type of story has been done before and while Jet Liï¿½s Fearless does nothing to advance the genre, I still found the presented story great, the visuals amazing, and the choreographed fights breath-taking. Itï¿½s rumored that this film was Liï¿½s bow out of the genre. While this is a sad note, Li should be proud to know that he has punched, slapped and pounded his way out in style.
Presented in a 1080p, VC-1 Encoded, 2:40:1 widescreen aspect ratio, Jet Liï¿½s Fearless has a truly eye-popping transfer. And itï¿½s not from all the slow motion fighting, but rather from the strong visuals.
Colors were strong, vibrant and clear. I especially enjoyed how powerful the colors seemed. The lush greens of the countryside, the dark darks of the night and the bright whites of the fighterï¿½s uniforms were all great. Detail was fine, but I expected a bit more here. Scenes of strength (like the opening sequences), were immediately followed by scenes of weakness (particularly the courtyard sequence with young Huo). Grain was present in some of the interior shots, but was kept to a minimum.
I did also notice a bit of video noise around the 55 minute mark during some of the muddled, dark countryside scenes. Had it not be for the strong visuals, Jet Liï¿½s Fearless would have had a rather mediocre transfer. The various locales really helped this transfer. Another solid effort, despite a few negatives, here Universal.
Arriving with the standard Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 audio track in both English or Manderin, Jet Liï¿½s Fearless sounded excellent with clear dialogue, effective surrounds and clear bass.
Dialogue was clean and clear throughout. I loved that Director Ronny Yu included the native Manderin audio track. As per the typical foreign film, I decided to watch the film in itsï¿½ native Manderin. Dynamic Range was nearly perfect as little discrete effects like thunder booming, people cheering, and the wind blowing enveloped the room. Surround usage was excellent obviously sounding the best during the fighting sequences. A scene of possible demo may be the fight between Chin and Huo. Swords clash and break, wood smashes, and bodies fly as these two great warriors fighting creates such an atmosphere that it felt like I was on the set with the actors.
Bass was great in an accompanying manner as it helped to capture all the raw, gritty natures of Huo fighting various warriors. Something to note is that some viewers may be turned off by the constant sound of bones crunching and blows landing. Myself, however, wouldnï¿½t have it any other way. A truly effective audio presentation.
Jet Liï¿½s Fearless marks another of Universalï¿½s HD DVD/DVD Combo Discs. Unfortunately, the features are kept to a minimum.
- A Fearless Journey: This making of has Jet Li and director Ronny Yu explain how they made the film including all the impressive fighting sequences that were orchestrated by Yuen Wo Ping. Li also touches on his decision to retire.
- Deleted Scene: Here we get a six and a half minute deleted scene. The scene in question deals with Huoï¿½s transformation from a simple-minded fighter into a fighter who can channel ego, pain and anger.
- Rated/Un-Rated: A note here is that this disc contains both the Rated and Un-Rated versions of the film. While I obviously watched the latter, I can image the only big difference may be that the blood level was toned down for the PG-13 cut.
As a closing picture to an amazing career, Jet Liï¿½s Fearless is like the perfect HD Christmas present. Solid filmmaking, great imagery, fantastic audio, and a short look into the film, gives this disc a highly recommended tag for Li fans and a strong recommended tag for fans of the genre or simply fans looking for a purely fun time.
Special Features List
- A Fearless Journey
- Deleted Scene