Wednesday, January 29, 2003

Spinning Over HERO
Trooped to SM Megamall where I joined Dean, Gig, Jason, Cams and Vinnie to watch Zhang Yimou's martial arts epic Hero, which stars Zhang Ziyi, Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung, and Jet Li. Cams has been a real darling by giving us all these premiere tickets, and I sure didin't want to pass up the chance to watch another martial arts film.

In case you didn't already know, I was a big fan of all them Fight To Win flicks, them starring Cindy Rothrock, Cynthia Luster, Yuen Biao, and Samo Hung, along with other supposedly bemedalled martial arts masters from all over. I'd go to the movie theaters alone, since none of my friends understood what I admired in these films. Fight to Win II is by far my favorite. As far as storylines go, I forget what they were all about. It's the fight sequences that made the price of admission all worth it.

The story involves layers of truth, with motivations of love, sacrifice and revenge running throughout the film. Dean found Hero fantastic beyond words, gushing over the "beauty in its absurdity." To me, I found it difficult at times to get carried away by the absurdity because the beauty was a tad too beautiful, like a wedding cake drowning in trimmings. I was convinced that the fabric supplier must have had a great time laughing all the way to the bank, and I could imagine the art director, production designer, and costume designer having loads of fun during brainstorming.

Performance-wise, Maggie Cheung gets my applause. There's something about a celebrated dramatic actress doing martial arts that deserves praise. (Though she has, in fact, done a number of action movies since her film appearance in 1984, her dramatic performances have given her international attention.) Zhang Ziyi turns Filipino melodramatic actress here, being the more emotionally explicit among the stars. But since her character is supposed to be the lovestruck, loyal, impulsive type, her performance is acceptable.

I have mixed reactions about the fight scenes, though, as some had a surrealist bent to them, integral to the story but unsatisfying to a fight choreography fan like me. I was amazed with only the first sequence between Jet Li and Donnie Yen (who, to my surprise, had appeared in Blade II and City of Darkness), while the rest were passable. Maggie Cheung seemed to have used a stunt double in her fight with Jet Li.

Overall: An overwhelming visual feast, which at times distracts one from an otherwise well-told tale. 7 out of 10

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