Hero (DVD)

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Hero (DVD)

Set 2,000 years ago, during the time of the Warring States, when seven kingdoms were battling for dominance, and one leader--the king of Qin (Chen Dao...

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24 reviews from the community

Review of "Hero (DVD)"

published 22/10/2004 | DarkMark
Member since : 26/02/2003
Reviews : 84
Members who trust : 36
About me :
Excellent
Pro beautifully shot, performed, presented. A sublime and unique experience
Cons the way the story is told may confuse
very helpful
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Story
Characters / Performances
Special Effects
Soundtrack

"One man will challenege an empire."

Those who are big fans of world filmmaking instead of that of just Hollywood; with its predictable rom-coms, heavy handed dramas and ‘scary’ teen flicks, and of course let’s not forget our very own, British film industry to which the majority of projects fall into three categories: James Bond; crime capers and Hugh Grants films. Anyway, those who are world cinema fans will no doubt recognise the long name of one of Asia’s most successful and popular films: “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” (its English title). Starring Chow Yun Fat, who’d proven to be moderately successful in his stint in Hollywood (“The Replacement Killers”, “The Corrupter”) it was a sweeping Oscar winner of an epic, a period style drama of love with graceful fight scenes to keep the pace going. This can also be said for now international superstar Jet Li famed for his fast kung-fu dexterity rather than his John Woo style gun fighting (Chow Yun Fat’s calling card). After numerous Hong Kong successes, Li made his Hollywood debut in 1998 with being the mysterious villain in “Lethal Weapon 4”. He then went on to front big action projects like “Romeo Must Die” and “The One” proving that can be just as intense on the acting front with overlooked films like “Kiss Of The Dragon”. But this year, we see Jet Li returning to the realm of Hong Kong cinema to star in the biggest film in Hong Kong history to date: “Hero”.

The film bravely revolves around the brutal, bloody and somewhat controversial beginnings of China, the six kingdoms that after much war finally came together to form the country we now know today. Jet Li plays a man called nameless, a warrior/mercenary who is invited to the palace of Qin to tell the king of Qin (Daoming Chen) about how he killed the three assassins who were planning to murder him to stop the bloodshed that he is creating in order to unify the other five kingdoms. We hear (and see) how Nameless defeated three of the kingdom’s most dangerous individuals and provides proof by bringing with him their infamous weapon, broken. With each heroic tale he tells, he is allowed several paces closer to the king. No one has ever come within a hundred paces of the king for the last three years, the last attempt on his life and with each story of killing, Nameless is granted to get closer and closer as a sign of respect by the king of Qin.

But, the king is not entirely convinced with Nameless’ story and reckons that there is more to it than what Nameless is letting on. Thinking that Nameless is also an enemy, trying to get closer to the king with the intent to kill; he invents his own version of what happened, implicating Nameless as an enemy also. As their fairly civilised conflict continues we then get the true account of events and see them unfold to the final, emotionally charged conclusion.

Performances are good throughout, with Jet Li playing to his strengths of being the modest yet deadly Nameless. Watching him spin his lies (and his sword) is a pleasure to watch. The performance from Qin king, Daoming Chen) is equally bold, appearing to be a man of experience, who cannot be fooled easily. As previously mentioned, nothing in this story is what it seems. The three assassins, named Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) also put in some good performances showing both aggression and emotion. Not so much so from Donnie Yen as Sky as his screen time is minimal but from the other two, Broken Sword and Falling Snow. We see some varying emotions from these two as they are indeed lovers. There is a love triangle element between these two and Broken Sword’s adoptive servant girl, Moon (Zhang Ziyi – “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”, “Rush Hour 2”) and this makes for some interesting viewing, especially as it isn’t horribly spelled out like in most films. Arguably Ziyi puts forward a performance far greater than Jet Li himself but that would be for you to judge.

However “Hero” is criticised (and it has been), there is one thing that remains unanimously clear: The fights rock socks! A major criticism with previous period epic “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” was that some of the fights were a little too over the top, spoiling one’s enjoyment. This is the only disadvantage to the otherwise wondrous eastern style of wirework fights. With “Hero” it is a relief that the wirework is somewhat more believable and also inspiring a higher emotional quality to the action leaving you in the rare position of actually caring about the result. One particular stand out moment is Falling Snow and Moon fighting in the yellow leafed orchard, gracefully filmed, choreographed and performed. It is also the unique style of “Hero” that will make it a memorable experience. The cinematography is probably the finest I’ve ever seen, I will definitely be looking out for DP Christopher Doyle in future (the man responsible for remake “Psycho’s” near noir presentation, other work includes the beautifully shot “Rabbit-Proof Fence”). The film’s scenes are colour co-ordinated to the degree that it is impossible to ignore. The orchard scene again as an example has the two ladies wearing flowing red clothing, fighting amongst yellow and orange petal like leaves. Very striking indeed.

However, the unique visual look for the film does serve a greater purpose. Although it looks stunning and absorbing to the eye, it also helps break up the numerous different interpretations of the same story going from red to green and blue and finally to white. When the colours and tones change, it tells us that we’ve moved on to a different interpretation from whomever. This is only a hunch, but I think the colours may have something to do with context of the story being told. For example: the story told by Nameless (Jet Li) uses reds and other vivid visuals. With red being a colour associated with danger, lies, wrongdoing etc; does the colour scheme actually play to these very basic themes or is it all a coincidence? (those who have seen the film, I’d like to know what you think). The final account for example is done in white, with white being associated with purity and therefore truth; does this associate with the final interpretation that is in fact what really happened? I think it does. Finding out what really went down with all the characters involved wearing white can’t be coincidence, can it?

Director Yimou Zhang (“House Of Flying Daggers”) has poured his heart and soul into this project and it shows, every aspect is executed perfectly, every shot counts, every angle counts, every word of dialogue counts; it is not often you find a film with so little flaws that are worth commenting on. Although I wouldn’t be able to say that it was the perfect film, as that can not exist. There can never truly be a ‘best ever film’, of course a majority vote can exist (I think “The Shawshank Redemption” would be in the running for such title) but as long as different people have different interests, likes and dislikes, you’ll never please everyone. I know people who thought “Hero” was absolute trash, fair enough, it’s their opinion. If they don’t have the cinematic maturity to indulge in world cinema then it’s their problem. Quentin Tarantino; who quite strangely; presents the film once said: That if you hated a particular genre like slap-stick and then he went on to make the greatest slap stick film ever made, no matter how good it was, that one person would never like it.

I’ve read awful things about this film, a fair amount focused on the director. He presents things uniquely people, much more talent than many of the Hollywood directors working today: he beats Stephen Sommers any day. Zhang (who also had a part in writing “Hero”) at least sees the film as a whole aesthetic piece of cinema as do other Asian directors like Ang Lee and Takeshi Kitano. In America, you get directors like Sommers who gladly ignore the fibre of the script in favour of the next big visual. Here, Zhang presents a breathtaking story dealing with the simple concepts of honour, loyalty and passion so subtly played out without having to follow through with huge Bruckheimer explosions and cheesy retorts concerning heroism. Nameless is a hero and throughout the whole of the film, I don’t think it is mentioned once and to be honest, it doesn’t have to be, everyone can tell through his actions and decisions.

The soundtrack is just as sweeping and beautiful as the film itself, really playing with your thoughts in the unlikeliest of ways. The best example is in the stunning calligraphy house scene where the king’s army rains down arrows, tearing through the wooden structure with ease. While the students are in panic, it is the old master who doesn’t stand up from his sand box, instead he continues as arrows dangerously hit the way, some only inches away from his head. To show their devotion in such Zen-Buddhist fashion, the students follow suit, some dying in the process. It is the fantastic score (left in the capable hands of Dun Tan) that elevates this to a far more obvious level, making it hard hitting to watch. Those who’ve seen “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” will notice similarities to the score in terms of style as: guess what? Both were done by Tan. Again, another name to watch.

“Hero” is officially the most expensive Hong Kong film, clocking in at about thirty million dollars. For a film as wondrous and as accomplished, it makes you wonder why Hollywood films (on average) are so damn expensive. On average, a Hollywood film costs about sixty million dollars to make. “Hero” on the other hand has proven to be more successful than anyone even dreamed and cost half the average cost (bear in mind that some American productions have cost up to $200 million cough> “Titanic”). A big difference with Hong Kong and Hollywood films is that Hong Kong films aren’t made so much for making money as Hollywood films are. Of course money needs to be made but Hong Kong films don’t seem to set it as high a priority as Hollywood does. How many blockbusters can you think of that should never have been made? I’m sure as hell I can think of a few…


BOTTOM LINE
“Hero” is a pleasant surprise from the Hong Kong stable, a wondrous and breathtaking film that will no doubt be overlooked by many. Those who enjoyed “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” will not be disappointed, those who don’t like reading subtitles will. Although essentially a martial arts film, its story is delivered with such pace and precision that forces you to pay attention rather than doze off and be wide awake in time for the next big fight sequence. Brilliantly shot, choreographed, performed, written, captured, edited and boasting a fine oriental score, “Hero” gladly wipes away any remaining memories of the eye candy line up of summer blockbusters. Recommended viewing and like some critics have said, it is one of the most beautiful films ever made.


CERTIFICATE : 12A
TIME APPROX : 96 minutes

CAUTION
Frequent, moderate violence
Some mild sexual references and brief, mild nudity

IF YOU LIKE THIS TRY
“Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon” – Ang Lee’s pre “Hulk” oriental epic is a little more drawn out but thrilling nonetheless.


How swift thy sword.

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Comments on this review

  • JayHall1991 published 19/06/2005
    I didn't like this very much, I didn't see the point in most of it and got confused as the plot progressed in weirder and wackier ways! Eventhough I enjoyed Crouching Tiger I thought this hdidn't have an epic sense about it.
  • sandemp published 15/02/2005
    I was just deciding whether or not to get this film and you've helped me make up my mind. Sandra. x
  • x_ska_baby_x published 24/01/2005
    I loved this film. Asian films are outstanding compared to all the Hollywood no-brainers around today - not only visually, but the script and characters too. Steph x
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Product Information : Hero (DVD)

Manufacturer's product description

Set 2,000 years ago, during the time of the Warring States, when seven kingdoms were battling for dominance, and one leader--the king of Qin (Chen Dao Ming)--was determined to end up victorious and unite all of China as one nation. The proud king is forced to live trapped alone in his palace as a remarkable trio of villains--Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung Man-Yuk), and Sky (Donnie Yen)--are out to kill him. But one day a simple country prefect (Jet Li) shows up, announcing that he has killed all three assassins. Identifying himself as Nameless, the prefect tells in great detail how he got rid of the king's sworn enemies.

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Listed on Ciao since: 26/03/2003