After his family is murdered, Yuanjia (Li) flees to solitude. He is tempted back to the world to partake in a WWE style four-way tournamant with the world's greatest fighters.
Based on the story of real-life Chinese hero Huo Yuan Jia (1868-1910), Fearless promised world-renowned martial artist Jet Li his greatest role, and not before time: the 43-year-old Hero star has said this will be his final martial arts film.
Perhaps, seeing echoes of his own life in that of Yuan Jia, a teenage champion who brought martial arts to the masses, Li developed the character himself over ten years. William Kong, producer of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and Hero, has assembled an impressive supporting cast of world-class fighters, and wisely hired Yuen Wo-Ping, the legendary choreographer of the Matrix and Kill Bill movies.
Where Fearless comes a cropper is in the choice of Ronny Yu as director: an epic tale such as this requires an Ang Lee or a Zhang Yimou to handle the emotional highs and lows as deftly as the fight sequences, not the man behind Bride Of Chucky and Freddy Vs. Jason. Li scrapes by on his meagre acting talent, outclassed by actors like Yong Dong and the Japanese Shido Nakamura, making this a sadly missed opportunity which pales beside Li’s earlier (and similar) Once Upon A Time In China.
Despite impressive, CG-light action sequences and an absorbing story which certainly stands another re-telling, director Ronny Yu barely elevates this above the level of a direct-to-video fightfest. Hero or Crouching Tiger it ain't.