Anthony's Film Review

Hero (2002)

Hero mixes visually breathtaking martial arts action with a cleverly written story...

If you want to watch a martial arts movie with exciting action, there are hundreds of titles in the genre to choose from. If, on the other hand, you want to watch a martial arts movie that has both exciting action as well as an incredibly unforgettable story, there are only a handful in comparison. One such film I would definitely recommend is the 2002 film Hero, directed by Zhang Yimou. This is a film that doesn't just include those two elements of action and plot. It's also does not resort to stereotypical and cliched fights and story elements, giving the whole movie a very fresh feel.

The movie centers on six principal characters. Jet Li plays a nameless warrior who is simply called Nameless. He enters the palace of the emperor of the state of Qin after defeating three different assassins: Broken Sword (played by Tony Leung), Flying Snow (played by Maggie Cheung), and Sky (played by Donnie Yen). Also involved in the story is Sword's servant, a young girl named Moon (played by Zhang Ziyi). What happens for nearly the first half of the movie is that Nameless fights Sky and explains to the Qin emperor how he ingeniously defeated Sword, Moon, and Snow.

I'm not going to say what happens next. The reason: there is a good twist here, and it's best that I not spoil the surprise. Still, I'll be a little vague so that I can still say why I love the story in Hero. For one thing, the story plays with our expectations. In the beginning, we have assumptions about who is good, who is bad, and what their motives are. As time goes on, we throw out those initial expectations and have new conclusions about the characters. By the end, nothing is clear. All of the characters are ambiguous in terms of what kind of people they are deep down. On top of this, there is one plot element that I think is the most important thing in the story. It has to do with a specific Chinese calligraphy symbol and its ultimate meaning, one that is unexpected and truly universal.

As for the martial arts, all I can say is that it is just awesome. Hero is one of those newer martial arts films that takes advantage of special effects to embellish the stylized action. It's cool to see really fast punches, kicks, weapon blows, ducks, dodges, and blocks, but when you have computer-generated images thrown in, even little things like drops of water and red leaves become part of the action. Other examples of stunning imagery in action include an aerial fight scene over a serene lake and an attack by a Qin army with thousands of arrows shot into the air.

Hero really is a beautifully made film. Zhang Yimou did an outstanding job directing this film in a way that captivates the audience every step of the way, not to mention also being involved in writing the brilliant screenplay. The same credit goes to the cast for their brilliant performances. All of this is just enough for me to award this movie my highest rating of 10/10 stars. If you want to go see a martial arts movie that also has a clever story and memorable characters, look no further than Hero. It's definitely one of the best in the genre.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Hero, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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