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China 2002 / 2004
Directed by
Zhang Yimou
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
David Michael Brown
4 stars


Synopsis: A nameless hero (Jet Li) stands before the Emperor Qin (Chen Daoming), the most powerful leader in China. Believing that he is to be the victim of an assassination attempt, the Emperor is intrigued to know how this nameless soldier managed to kill the country's most infamous assassins, all intent in ending his reign. As the nameless man recounts his heroic tales the Emperor becomes suspicious, could this man standing before him, really have killed Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung) or is he merely trying to get close to commit the regal murder himself?

A directorial triumph from Zhang Yimou, Hero is being marketed as a successor to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon but offers much, much more.

The performances from all the leads are excellent, Jet Li as the nameless hero is leaps and bounds beyond his rather tepid performances in routine Hollywood fodder like Lethal Weapon 4. He shows every reason why he is such a superstar in his homeland and the gorgeous Maggie Cheung, star of Irma Vep is devastating as the femme fatale, Flying Snow, who is willing to kill her lover, Broken Sword, to ensure the death of the tyrant Emperor.

The film's episodic nature is enhanced by some truly stunning set pieces. The battle between Flying Snow and Broken Sword's disciple Moon, Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi is beautiful in its aerial dexterity and graceful choreography. The two stunning actresses are masters of both sword play and wire work, as they fly over the gorgeous tree-lined landscapes, recalling Zhang's similar fight with Chow Yun Fat in Ang Lee's epic. The cinematography by Australian Christopher Doyle, is beautiful to behold, each tale is regaled in a different primary colour that affects the clothing, the lighting, even the foliage of the trees.

The battle scenes are spectacular and have a sense of scale often lost when using CGI. The computer work by Sydney-based Animal Logic is excellent, unobtrusive yet impressive, the arrow attack on Broken Sword's calligraphy school is particularly breathtaking.

Hero was nominated for the best foreign language Oscar and has won awards all over the world; it's amazing that since its original release the film has taken two years to find its way to Australia. It's rare to see a film that combines action, political allegory and beautiful visuals in such a poetic and literate way and for that it should be seen by a bigger audience.




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