I honestly didn't think Jet Li had it in him to make a film as good as FIST OF LEGEND again... let alone one that's even better! FEARLESS proves me wrong, and is quite possibly the best film of Jet's career.
Reviewer Score: 10
First of all, Jet's acting in Mandarin is a revelation... he's excellent, and the character fits him to a tee. He gets to show a much wider range of emotions than he's been able to in the past (certainly in his Hollywood films), and carries them all off with class. Better than he's ever been, by a wide margin.
Then the production values and the cinematography of the film are A++ - really beautiful, with scenes that approach the sheer aesthetic beauty of HERO... but without coming across as being so self-indulgent :p Great soundtrack too.
And the fight scenes... wow! The choreography is superlative (though Yuen Wo Ping gets caught out reusing ideas on occasion these days). The fights are mostly very intricate, complex and sophisticated, with a wide variety of styles being used as well. There are some really long takes, and Jet is as fast, agile and powerful as he's ever been - at least since the SHAOLIN TEMPLE films. The way they are filmed shows that it's possible to use "modern" camera work and editing (and even a dash of CGI) without rendering the action incoherenent or destroying the flow and impact. It's been a long while since we've seen fights this well choreographed, filmed and performed.
The story of Huo Yuan Jia's quest to become the number one fighter, and his self-discovery and enlightenment as to the "true" nature of martial arts, is simple but nicely handled. It continues the progression towards maturity, wisdom and compassion that flows from FIST OF FURY through FIST OF LEGEND (to which FEARLESS is essentially a prequel). I think FEARLESS reflects a lot more of Jet Li's personal views and philosophy than any of his previous works have done - this is apparently the reason why he has said this will be his last period martial arts film, because it says all he has to say through that particular medium. It's a shame, and I hope he changes his mind, because FEARLESS is a triumphant return for Jet Li, and it's hard to imagine him being happy to make more crap like CRADLE2THEGRAVE after something like this!
It's also a triumphant return for Ronny Yu, who has also been stuck making Hollywood crap for far too many years. He must have learnt something along the way, or perhaps just stored up all his energy and ideas to unleash in FEARLESS. This is his best work too, in my opinion - or at least equal with BRIDE WITH WHITE HAIR. Even cinematographer Poon Hang-Sang can count this amongst his best work.
Basically there is no aspect of FEARLESS to which I would give less than full marks - it's something I didn't expect to see the likes of again - i.e. one of the best martial arts films ever made :)
MrBooth's Movie Review Website - The 14 Amazons