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Hero

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All-Reviews.com Movie Review: Hero

Starring: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai
Director: Yimou Zhang
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 96 Minutes
Release Date: August 2004
Genres: Action, Martial-Arts, Foreign


*Also starring: Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen, Zhang Ziyi, Chen Dao Ming



Review by Steve Rhodes
3½ stars out of 4

HERO cries out for an easy one-word review of "Wow!" Nominated for the 2003 Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film, the breathtaking HERO (YING XIONG) is directed brilliantly by Yimou Zhang, who also did TO LIVE, one of my personal favorites. The obvious comparison is between this film and CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON (the winner of 2001's Foreign Language Oscar), but HERO is superior on every level. Hero is also better than NOWHERE IN AFRICA, which won the Oscar in 2003.

Set two thousand years ago, the plot involves a nameless warrior, sometimes addressed as Master Nameless, who becomes a hero. The king of Qin (Daoming Chen), one of seven warring regions of what is today known as China, has trouble sleeping at night since his rivals in the other areas want him dead. Nameless, played with stone-cold precision by Jet Li, kills all of the assassins who are out to kill the king. There are, however, other interpretations of the events.

However they are interpreted, the movie's fighting episodes are absolutely stunning, with each trying for masterpiece status. Of the many good ones, my favorite is a battle between two female warriors. As they swirl around above the ground in a carefully choreographed ballet of a battle, their swords create a storm among the autumn leaves. With the fighters' blood red gowns flapping in the breeze, the golden leaves serve as a picturesque backdrop. Another fight between two males is an interior sequence with big bellowing curtains of bright turquoise. Yet another is set just slightly above the waters of a placid mountain lake. The warriors drop down briefly to dip the tips of their large swords into the water as if they are coating them with a secret poison. Finally, the movie argues effectively that learning the art of calligraphy is a prerequisite to becoming a great swordfighter.

Like an opera in visuals and music, the movie also shares some of the silliness of an opera's plot. In addition to the aforementioned, Mr. Nameless, the other characters are called Broken Sword (Tony Leung), Snow (Maggie Cheung), Moon (Zhang Ziyi) and Sky (Donnie Yen). Although there are plenty of special effects in the film, it appears to be a cast of thousands of extras rather than a cast of thousands of CGI characters, but who knows. What is sure is that this is a film that will take your breath away.

HERO runs 1:36. It is rated PG-13 for "stylized martial arts violence and a scene of sensuality" and would be acceptable for kids around 10 and up.

Copyright 2004 Steve Rhodes

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