June 19, 2004

Tonight I watched Hero, a Chinese martial arts movie that is getting released by Miramax in US theaters this August. The trailer runs if you go to see Kill Bill 2.

I picked up a DVD at Amoeba Records in Hollywood. It's the Chinese version that happens to have English subtitles. I can't read the menus on the DVD, but I was able to get the movie to play.

And what a movie it is. Hero is simply fantastic.

The director, Zhang Yimou, previously made the noted films Raise the Red Lantern and Shanghai Triad. His skill is evident in the masterful art direction and filming of the movie. He makes amazing use of color and scenery to evoke a feeling of China's past that is rare to see. In one scene, he uses leaves and wind in an amazing way that has never been seen before on film.

Technically, the film is impressive with top notch Chinese martial arts battles and superb Yuen Wo Ping style wire work and fight choreography. If you like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's fight scenes, these are even better.

The cast is the absolute top people in Chinese action cinema. Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang, Daoming Chen, and Donnie Yen. You won't be disappointed by their acting or physical performances.

For the plot, I'll simply quote the promo info:

At the height of China's Warring States period, the country was divided into seven kingdoms: Qin, Zhao, Han Wei, Yan, Chu and Qi. For years, the separate kingdoms fought ruthlessly for supremacy. As a result, the populace endured decades of death and suffering.

The Kingdom of Qin was the most determined of all. The Qin King was obsessed with conquering all of China and becoming her first Emperor. He had long been the target of assassins throughout the other six states. Of all the would-be killers, none inspired as much fear as the three legendary assassins, Broken Sword, Flying Snow and Sky.

To anyone who defeated the three assassins, the King of Qin promised great power, mountains of gold and a private audience with the King himself. But defeating the killers is a near impossible task. For ten years no one came close to claiming the prize. So when the enigmatic county sheriff, Nameless, came to the palace bearing the legendary weapons of the slain assassins, the King was impatient to hear his story. Sitting in the palace, only ten paces from the King, Nameless told his extraordinary tale.

And so the movie begins. Even though I have the DVD, I must see this movie in the theater. I suggest you do as well.

Posted by michael at June 19, 2004 10:03 PM