Hero Zhang Yimou

Hero Zhang Yimou
Originally released a couple years ago, Hero is now seeing a North American release under the "Quentin Tarantino Presents" banner. And while there will be countless comparisons to that martial arts love story mega-crossover Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (it does, after all, have subtitles), Hero is both a more ambitious endeavour and a more fragmented one. Featuring Jet Li in the nameless title role, Hero unspools in conversational flashback-style tale of how in feudal, fragmented China, Nameless defeats the three deadliest assassins (Sky, Broken Sword and Snow) to ensure the king's safety in his attempt to conquer and assimilate all the warring factions into one glorious country. Of course, all is not what it seems, and in Rashomon/Usual Suspects-style, holes are exposed in Nameless's story, retellings occur and the truth (unlike in those two exceptional films) finally emerges. Hero definitely has lofty ambitions, and, for the most part, fulfils them: it is part epic adventure, part love story, part philosophical examination and part insanely kick-ass martial arts movie (all the fights are breathtaking). It is also beautifully shot, has the ostentatious fight scenes that please some and drive others nuts (there's a lake battle where Nameless and Broken Sword fight while skipping across the water) and is well acted. Jet Li, who has released a number of brutal English films in recent years, returns to glory here, demonstrating the martial arts abilities that made him the action hero to watch years ago, but it is Tony Leung Chiu Wai, as Broken Sword, who steals scenes as a conflicted assassin. Even though the many elements don't fuse together cohesively to challenge the supremacy of Crouching Tiger, Hero's strengths and insanely kick-ass fights outweigh its sometimes unfulfilled ambitions. (Alliance Atlantis)