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Movies: Hero
Wednesday, 2004 September 1 - 1:28 am
Jet Li leads an all-star Chinese cast in a theatrical and intense action movie.

This movie is getting lots of hype, probably due to the star-studded lineup and famous director Yimou Zhang. It's a Chinese fantasy-action-historical movie, similar to the kind of thing we were exposed to with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon". There will be lots of comparisons, I'm sure.

It's a story of a nameless warrior (Jet Li; he's called "Nameless" in the movie) who is given audience with the king of one of early China's warring states (Qin), for supposedly killing three would-be assassins. The actual events that led him to that point are retold from three different perspectives (or four, depending on how you count them), and determining what really happened is part of the suspense of the movie. (The other part of the suspense is, naturally, what will happen next.)

The different renditions of the story are the interesting part. Each version has its own costume color scheme and its own moral theme; comparisons to "Rashomon" and "Ran" are also inevitable here . It's classic theater, something western moviegoers don't see much nowadays. Yeah, there's a bunch of great fantasy martial-arts, which will appeal to the boys in the audience. But it's decoding the themes and the underlying messages that makes this really interesting.

The movie's primary flaw is that it seems just a little too in love with itself sometimes; it lingers on slow-motion sequences and picture effects, which are dazzling for the first few seconds but distracting beyond that. It's a minor quibble; it's a superb visual creation, and a little overindulgence can be excused.

Ziyi Zhang is, as usual, fantastic. Daoming Chen, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, and Maggie Cheung all give strong performances.

I think people will have one of three reactions this movie: (a) "I get it, and it's great"; (b) "I don't get it, so it's probably great"; or (c) "I don't get it, so it stinks".

I'll go for (a).

Rating: 4 / 5
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Posted by Ken in: moviesreviews

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