Huo Yuanjia is a legendary Chinese martial arts hero who rose to attention in the early 1900s through challenge matches with foreign fighters. At a time when some in the West looked at the East as uncivil and backward, Huo stood up to the mockery. He accepted fights with Western strongmen, wrestlers and swordsmen who openly insulted the Chinese by calling them "Asian weaklings" and "sick men of the East." His victories provided the Chinese a source of pride. He also provided a source of unity for Chinese fighters by co-founding a martial arts federation so they could influence one another through cooperation—not intimidation.
Jet Li's Fearless, the final martial arts movie for screen legend Jet Li, tells the story of Huo Yuanjia. Or to be more accurate, it tells a story sort of about Huo Yuanjia. Fearless takes Huo's defense of his culture and the formation of his athletic federation and pretty much makes up everything else. In fact, Huo's descendents have demanded an apology from Jet Li and the studio for the liberties—especially for suggesting that Huo Yuanjia had no descendents.
Whether true or not, the story Fearless actually tells is a moving and effective tale of a man who overcomes his greatest enemy—himself. The movie's Huo Yuanjia learns from his mistakes, reevaluates priorities and works to become a better man. Beautifully shot and well choreographed, Fearless has the feel of an old-fashioned martial arts journey film. While it may not have quite the universal themes and crossover appeal as grand epics like Hero and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, this may be Jet Li's finest film and a fitting finale.
Huo (Jet Li) grows up in the late 1800s with a father who is a well-known fighter and teacher in ...