- This Week
Finally, the martial arts star is Fearless
09.19.06 - 8:46 pm | Kimberly Chun |
Jet Li may be fearless, as the title of his new Ronny Yu martial arts epic goes. The five-time all-around national Wushu champion of China may be a formidable opponent on a movie set — and a devout Buddhist much like his Fearless protagonist, legendary Wushu fighter Huo Yuanjia. But that doesn't mean the 43-year-old actor rests on his laurels — or his international success in more than 30 Hong Kong, Chinese, and Hollywood movies, including the Shaolin Temple, Once upon a Time in China, and Fong Sai Yuk series, Bodyguard from Beijing, Fist of Legend, and Hero.
"Some people like my movies, some people hate my movies, some people hate Jet Li — it's normal," the hyperanimated star says. "Not foreigners, but Chinese. I made some movies like Romeo Must Die that a lot of people like in the States, but Asian people hate. I think there's a cultural difference — it's their own hero, so they ask, 'Why are you doing this for the market?' Even with this movie, I tried to tell younger Chinese generations, have an open heart."
Already a hit in his homeland, Fearless is described as Li's "final martial arts masterpiece." With nods to classic "kung fu theater," the film follows the dramatic trajectory of turn-of-the-century hero Huo, who journeys from arrogant tough to the enlightened founder of the now-international Jingwu Sports Federation.
Like many of Li's Chinese films, Fearless takes a heroic high road, making a political statement by reflecting the current changes in a China confronted once again by overseas powers, now in the form of multinational corporations. "Teenagers see Jet Li or Bruce Lee or Jackie Chan and say, 'Cool! Kick butt! Beat up somebody!' That's the wrong message. That's a part of martial arts, but first, most important, is the heart, the mental, how to use this to help people," he explains on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. "Violence is not the only solution." (Kimberly Chun)
FEARLESS opens Fri/22 in Bay Area theaters