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Hero DVD

About.com Rating 3 Star Rating

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Hero DVD

The Bottom Line

Exceedingly beautiful fight scenes have to make up for an uninvolving storyline.
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Pros

  • Jet Li and Zhang Yimou team up for beautifully filmed violence
  • Gorgeous, color-coded martial arts ballet
  • Zhang Ziyi

Cons

  • The melodramatic plot is confusing and uninvolving

Description

  • China, 2002. 99 mins.
  • Widescreen DVD with DTS 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound
  • Featurette: "Hero" Defined
  • "Inside the Action:" A conversation with Quentin Tarantino and Jet Li
  • Storyboards

Guide Review - Hero DVD

Part "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" part "Rashomon," Chinese art house auteur Zhang Yimou ("Raise the Red Lantern") gets in on the wire-fu action with the blockbuster "Hero." Under Yimou's direction, martial arts legend Jet Li gets a workout, slashing, jumping, and flying his way through countless fights, but Yimou is first and foremost an aesthete: the violence remains almost entirely bloodless, and the passion is also missing from the duels. Instead, we get something much more akin to ballet than traditional chop socky.

Unlike Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger," "Hero" never quite comes together. The actors, including Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen, and Zhang Ziyi, do their best to invest their characters with dignity and grace while they keep delivering deadly blows to one another, but in spite of all the tragedy, they only occasionally manage to generate any kind of emotional tug.

Instead, the lavish beauty of the art design will have to suffice, and it almost does. Yimou shows us things we have never seen before: an arrow's-eye view of a calligraphy school under siege, an autumnal fight among tornadoes of leaves, an airborne duel over a mountain lake, a deadly match in a rainy courtyard, and so forth. Each one of his set pieces is gorgeously photographed, and every single shot of "Hero" is a worthy of a framed poster. After two hours, the film's relentless beauty becomes numbing, and the plot just barely sustains interest.

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