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</script></div>{/googleAds}The blockbuster release of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon really paved the way for the making of Hero, Yimou Zhang's epic paen to martial arts films and an old classic, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon. It is a successful film for the parts that really matter, but is silly and a tad repetitive in ways that should have been avoided. The bold, symbolic colours and ferocious and exquisite fighting are notable, though the physics-defying wire-fu will have some snickering. The characters are developed in a limited fashion, with little backstory, and the plotting devolves into plodding--a weakness of the scheme whereby the same story is told from different perspectives. In this case, each new version increasingly begs our indulgence as some nuance previously unseen is provided; the overall effect is minimal, however, and suddenly the sweet fight scenes, now played and replayed with different colours, seem overdone and annoyingly repetitive. These really are minor complaints however, and as a general rule I don't want to complain about expertly choreographed and filmed martial arts sequences, since so few movies these days get it right. Hero most certainly does, and indeed, its shining moments of greatness are the incredible detail of motion and balletic movements of the fighters. It is as if they exist in a world free from the constraints of gravity and friction.

The other amazing aspect of Hero is its extensive palette of colour and sound. Aided by cinematographer Christopher Doyle, Zhang paints a vivid collection of flashbacks, each represented by colours that match the thematic conceit of that segment. By the end, we are so saturated with the emotional intensity of the one-colour dramatics, it is difficult to recognize the deceptive path that Zhang has taken with the story.

The Nameless hero (Jet Li) comes to the court of the king of Qin (Daoming Chen), a warlord whose desire to conquer the kingdoms of China serves an ironic end: the unification of all the kingdoms into one country. With him, he carries the swords of Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Sky (Donnie Yen), and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), three assassins who prevent the king from achieving his goal. The king invites Nameless to sit within ten paces and tell him how he defeated all three assassins. From there, the three stories, told in flashback, twist and wind into truth and revelation; with each new segment, Nameless' mission is revealed, and the lesson of his epiphany becomes the deed that eventually unites China into an empire.

Functionally, Jet Li is a fine martial artist, but he retains the same facial expression throughout the entire film. More interesting is Donnie Yen, who fills his role with an intelligence borne of desire for peace. He and Maggie Cheung are adept as lovers who are pitted against the fate to which history consigns them. Ziyi Zhang, as the servant Moon, is a fiery personification of the entire conflict, and her tears and anger meld with each new telling of the story.

While Hero drudges at times into oversentimentality and lapses into self-glorification, the intent is a worthy effort and, as some have pointed out, has some application for our times. A gorgeously shot film, Hero is equally impressive in its martial arts staging, its epic casting, and sound design. For a film that typically wouldn't attract a publican audience, Hero, like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, succeeds admirably in reaching across international lines to provide a meaningful and entertaining theatre experience.


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