Hero Yimou Zhang

Hero Yimou Zhang
While it may not have had the impact (what has?) of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to which it has endlessly (and not without some merit) been compared to, Hero and director Yimou Zhang have heralded a recent re-invasion of exceptionally beautiful martial arts movies (despite Hero's shelving in North America for two years) in recent months. Visually dazzling to a level of near-pretentious artistry, Yimou Zhang astonishes with his first "action movie" through his use of beautiful natural settings (pristine lakes, lovely forests and vibrant colours) and the astounding fight scenes. The story of a nameless warrior (played by Jet Li, in a long overdue return to form) who defeats the three deadliest assassins in feudal China to protect a tyrant king is full of narrative twists and turns, uncoiling Rashomon/Usual Suspects-style. Although an "action" movie, Hero takes stabs at philosophical examinations, epic warfare, revenge, self-sacrifice, love and, of course, honour. But despite all of its grand and impressive individual parts, Hero feels somewhat fragmented, never coalescing into the whole that brought success to Hidden Dragon, though, granted, Hero is a more complex film. Having played a huge part in the marketing of the film (with the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" banner preceding the title) and in getting it released in North America, Tarantino is included in the sparse extras via an "Inside The Action" featurette with Jet Li. However, while it's undeniably interesting (Tarantino is, as everyone knows, an encyclopaedia of cinema knowledge and an engaging, hyperactive speaker), it's too brief and features few insights into Hero, feeling like a missed opportunity with a director like Tarantino and an action star (despite his incredibly bad American films) like Li. Considering there's no commentary from Zhang, having Tarantino do one (as he did with True Romance) would have been a huge coup. Storyboards and a couple other brief features featuring various interviews and opinions on Hero (such as some of the troubles shooting in the wild) complete the few extras. (Although, with DVDs these days, the three-disc special edition may be only a couple months away.) But despite its thin extras, there's no denying the breathtaking beauty of Hero's settings, the intricate fight scenes and its complex story, all of which nearly combine into a masterpiece, nearly. (Alliance Atlantis)