Jet Li's Fearless Ronny Yu

This is indeed the final martial arts film of the great Jet Li — so great that this thoroughly maudlin epic makes a rather awkward capper to his career. Li plays the role of Huo Yuanjia, who founded a school for martial arts at the turn of the last century, though his early life was one of fights for glory and endless drinking. But when misinformation leads him to accidentally kill his rival, it starts a chain of events that leads to his family’s death and his self-imposed exile into the hinterlands to learn the true meaning of his skills. When he returns, colonial powers have overrun the cities and given Huo the means for his redemption: fighting the man in the ring. One wants to commend Li for wanting something more substantial than fight and revenge films but there’s no denying that this swansong is dry, goody-goody and dull. There’s lots of oversimplified speechifying and enormous neon arrows attached to the moments of significance, but the worst thing is that the fight scenes aren’t terribly exciting. Yuen Woo-ping is on hand to make sure those scenes go off as planned, but though they’re very elaborate the digital trickery is hugely apparent they fail to make an impression. One can feel everybody going through the motions waiting to get to the end, and even the postcolonial angle can’t keep this thing from sinking beneath the waves of pretension. Only a movie star could think this would have any lasting seriousness, and the one in question has crushed any fun under the weight of his good intentions. Extras include an idolatrous "making of” and one deleted scene. (Alliance Atlantis)