By Kylee Dawson
Photo Courtesy of Miramax
Jet Li stars as a nameless warrior in Zhang Yimou's "Hero," a cinematic masterpiece that incorporates graceful martial arts and an amazing 2,000-year-old story inspired by actual events.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, September 2, 2004
Films don't get much more perfect than Zhang Yimou's "Hero." Flying swordsmen and catfights are elements any reasonable kung fu fan would expect from a Jet Li flick. And "Hero" has plenty of all that.
But I must warn you; "Hero" is NOT a Jet Li film. It's a Zhang Yimou film, and is probably the biggest thing to hit theaters in Asia since "Enter the Dragon."
Cool martial arts choreography, incredible direction and breathtaking cinematography typically take a "kung fu" film only so far before it seems like every other rehashed martial arts film.
Zhang Yimou goes that extra step by forcing the audience to actually pay attention to the story.
"Hero," best known as "Ying Xiong" to the rest of the world, was actually released throughout Asia in 2002, but hasn't made it to theaters in the U.S. until now.
9 out of 10
Run time: 96 min.
Set in third century China, the story takes place at a time when China was divided into seven warring states.
It begins with a nameless warrior (Jet Li) presenting the weapons of three slain assassins to the King of Qin. While in the king's company, he tells the story of how he infiltrated and defeated Long Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), all members of the neighboring state, Zhao.
Told in a series of "Rashomon" -like flashbacks, this truly intriguing story of love, unity and honor is what makes this film outstanding.
Granted, the martial arts scenarios in "Hero" are incredible and plentiful from the get-go, but this is not your typical "badass warrior avenges his slain loved ones" kind of flick.
Zhang wrote and directed this film with a plot as its foundation. The sword fights and other action sequences are only there to make it look really cool.
With the most expensive budget in Chinese cinematic history, "Hero" also assembles one of the most beautiful casts of actors I've ever seen.
I fell in love all over again with Zhang Ziyi, just as I marveled at the exquisite beauty of Maggie Cheung. Leung and Len (a trained martial artist) are also very easy on the eyes, but obviously aren't as tough as Li's character.
The film is in Mandarin with English subtitles, but Chinese films are typically very easy to follow. As a plus, Zhang is a master at visual storytelling, so if you go just for the entrancing martial arts sequences, then by all means ignore the subtitles.
But to understand the purely fascinating purpose of the film, I highly suggest you try to read every word.
For me, watching Chinese films is like eating Chinese food; I always want more once the experience is over. Like every Zhang Yimou film I've seen, "Hero" definitely makes the grade, and has now moved onto my favorites list. I'm sure you'll add it to yours as well when you see it.