Hero (2002)
Reviewed by: Arshadnm6 on 2005-04-21
Summary: Over-the-top attempt at becoming a crowd-pleaser, too bad we didn't have Wong Kar-Wai......
Nameless (played by Jet Li from ‘Hitman’, ‘Romeo Must Die’ and ‘The One’), a low-level official in the Qin Kingdom, is summoned to the palace of Ying Zheng (played by Chen Dao-Ming), by the King of Qin. On arriving, Nameless presents the King of Qin with the weapons of Broken Sword (played by Tony Leung Chiu-Wai from ‘Infernal Affairs I and III’ and ‘Hard Boiled’), Flying Snow (played by Maggie Cheung from ‘Moon Warriors’, ‘The Heroic Trio’ and ‘Executioners’) and Sky (played by Donnie Yen from ‘Dragon Inn’, ‘Iron Monkey’ and ‘Shanghai Knights’), three assassins sought by the Qin Kingdom for attempting to assassinate the King. As China is currently in turmoil due to the various factions of warring states, Ying Zheng desires to conquer the entire nation and establish himself as the supreme ruler of China. Nameless arrives at the palace to claim his rewards for disposing of the King’s enemies, and tells the story of how he was able to overcome the famed and renowned assassins. A series of flashbacks and different versions of the same story follow with the intentions of all of the characters changing as their motives becomes clearer. Broken Sword also has a young assistant (played by Zhang Ziyi from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon’, ‘Rush Hour II’ and ‘Musa: The Warrior’) and both of them get entangled in a love-triangle with Flying Snow.

This movie has a high-budget invested into it, which means a barrage of special-effects is included with several well-known actors. However, this is only a diversion to the movie’s many shortfalls. Firstly, the twists come thick and hard following the development of a fairly simplistic storyline and at points this becomes irritating since they appear to be questioning the viewers’ intelligence (via missed clues) most of the time rather than going somewhere in particular. Secondly, the storyline is wafer-thin, spiced up by some unnecessary martial-arts action (mainly involving swords) and therefore does not deserve such a vast acting talent or budget devoted to it since things could have been scaled down. Also, the romantic aspects of the movie are a constant distraction and never serve a purpose. Furthermore, the use of different shades of one colour during any particular scene is all too common and is revolting and unrealistic to say the least. The movie’s main point is to introduce the viewers to China’s vast and possibly lost traditional talents in music and calligraphy writing whilst agreeing with the communistic government on its stance of achieving the higher good for the nation over the individual.

Nevertheless, this movie is entertaining enough and never actually bores. The acting is quite well performed with Jet Li taking a stern and emotionless view to the goings on in the movie (leaving Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung and Zhang Ziyi to fill in other corners of emotions by introducing a love story into the mix). This movie however does lack comedy and is a very seriously-focussed drama. Jet Li may even be considered for the role of a younger Mu-Bai (played by Chow Yun-Fat) in the prequel to ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ after this performance. Moreover, repeating the same scenes with different viewpoints especially in an epic is not a good idea and will not hopefully be experimented with again. Thankfully, this time around, Zhang Ziyi was crowded out by the experienced actors available throughout the movie and could not interfere with her Oscar-nomination inspired over-acting.

Overall, this movie is a welcome change from the perspective of other traditional kung-fu movies like ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and has higher meanings entrenched throughout the feature (possibly something that I didn’t pick up on!!). Perhaps it can be explained by my lack of appreciation for cultural value in society. It is trying to appeal to too broad an audience (Chinese government including drama, romance and action fans) which could be a failing due to a lack of focus.

Overall Rating: 7.3/10
Reviewer Score: 7