Romeo Must Die (2000) – Jet Li

Romeo Must Die (2000) taxi scene with Jet Li and Aaliyah

This is one of Jet Li’s best movies in terms of having good supporting actors, great backing music and a seemingly decent production budget.

Although the plot is a bit thin, it’s ok – the action is frequent and the vibe is cool – intermittently exciting with good humour. A few slower scenes and the final fight scene drags on a bit, but otherwise it’s pretty fluid entertainment value.

Jet Li plays a Chinese kung fu expert called Han, who breaks out of jail upon hearing his brother is dead, to attend the funeral and find his killer.

It should be no surprise that the music is good, seeing how this movie has stars like DMX who plays a club owner called Silk, and Aaliyah who plays the lead female role called Trish. Both do a pretty good job in their respective roles here, and both of their music is played throughout, at very relevant times. Whoever selected the tunes and mixed them into the movie the way they did deserves some kind of award for it, especially the “Got Him” transition into the motorbike scene (can’t find the name of that tune anywhere) where Hilary Yip plays the Chinese woman who Jet Li’s character Han doesn’t want to hit.

Other decent performances include Russell Wong who plays the Chinese boss’s right hand man; Delroy Lindo who plays Isaak, Trish’s father, the head of the black people’s gang; Isaiah Washington who plays Mac, Isaak’s right hand man; and Anthony Anderson who nearly steals the show with his charismatic comedic touch as a low-level shot-caller working for Mac to help protect Trish.

Fist Of Legend (1994) – Jet Li

Not as powerful a plot as Jet Li’s movie made a decade later called Fearless (2006), but at least Fist Of Legend (1994) has a decent English dubbed version unlike Fearless.

Fist Of Legend is an entertaining albeit thin on plot. The fight scenes are plentiful and well made – well staged, well shot, energetic and creative – not too monotonous for a Kung Fu movie.

Jet Li performs well as usual, this time in the role of Chen Zen, a student of Huo YuanJia (who the Fearless movie was based on). Chen Zen’s female companion in this movie, called Mitsuko Yamada, is played well by Shinobu Nakayama – she and Jet Li make a credible couple.

The other actors in this movie range from adequate to pretty good, including Yasuaki Kurata who does a good job as Fuimo Funakoshi, a wise & friendly Japanese warrior who defeats Chen Zen without injuring him. He is also Mitsuko’s uncle in this movie. And Billy Chow does a good job as General Fujita – a strong military leader and the final nemesis Chen Zen needs to defeat.

Fist of Legend (1994) is kind of a Tribute to Bruce Lee, as Jet Li replicates some of the concepts Bruce made famous two decades prior, including Dojo Storms (a la Fist Of Fury), Butterfly Boxing (a la Way Of The Dragon) and Backflip Kicks (a la Enter The Dragon). The plot runs VERY similar to Bruce Lee’s movie Fist Of Fury (1972), with a fictional lead character called Chen Zen whose teacher is poisoned by a Japanese plot with the help of Chinese traitors. Both movies feature an epic dojo storm. It’s also great to see Jet Li attempt to impersonate the beautiful Butterfly Boxing footwork that Bruce Lee made famous in Way Of The Dragon (1972) – credit to Jet Li for attempting this although it’s clearly not something he’s well trained in, as it looks quite awkward to the trained eye but probably looks fine to the casual audience – it even looked a bit forced when Bruce did it (compared to professional boxers dancing around a bouncy ring canvas, which is bound to be more fluid than dancing on concrete) so we’ll let Jet Li off with this and appreciate his tribute – it was still good to watch.

Fearless (2006) – Jet Li

7/10 — Not a bad movie, but I can’t find an English dubbed version. Some parts are in English but most is in Mandarin. English subtitles are easier to follow here than in most movies, since the speaking is rarely fast and there’s plenty of speechless action; but if you are easily able to pause, rewind and read the subtitles at your own pace, that will inevitably help you follow the story and enjoy the movie more. If I could find a good English dubbed version I’d rate it 7.5 but as it depends on subtitles I’ll give it a 7/10 for the inconvenience.

This movie is very loosely based on the true story of Huo YuanJia – so loosely that one of Huo YuanJia’s grandsons, Huo ShouJin, sued this movie’s producers & distributors in 2006 for misrepresenting & dishonouring his grandfather’s legacy. Maybe that’s got something to do with the lack of an English Dubbed version today.

The story follows a boy who wants to learn Kung Fu but his father was leading him away from it (true story). He grows up and becomes a famous fighter (true) but soon his family are killed (fiction). With nothing left to lose, Jet Li’s character loses himself in a remote farming village, and with the help of a friendly & loving community, his attitude improves. He then faces further tests which will go down in history (loosely based on true events).

It’s not a bad performance by Jet Li and some of the other actors such as Sun Li who plays the lead female role. Quite enjoyable if you don’t mind the subtitles. Some distressing parts though – borderline horror genre at times. Add to that some genuine life lessons on war vs peace, and pride vs humility. Combine this with a vast amount of epic kung fu from Jet Li and you arrive at a very respectable movie to enjoy one evening – it’s nearly two and a half hours long.

The One (2001) – Jet Li and Jason Statham

7.5/10 — The One is a pretty cool Jet Li classic. It’s a simple but pleasant sci-fi packed with kung fu by Jet Li. There’s some energetic solo demonstrations of Xing Yi and Ba Gua to enjoy, plus the usual fast-paced choreography. Jason Statham has a decent supporting role.

The main hero and the main villain are both played by Jet Li (they came from different universes). The villain is trying to kill the good guy in order to gain his power. He’s already killed 123 other versions, making the remaining 2 versions of Jet Li very powerful as they’ve automatically absorbed the speed & strength of those who died (power is split between survivors). The bad guy is trying to kill the good guy now, to become the last remaining one, at which point the universe could explode or the remaining one could ‘become a god’ they say.

The Master (1992) – Jet Li

7.5/10 — The Master is a fun film for the keen martial arts enthusiast. It’s not a very high budget blockbuster; but with a strong lead performance by Jet Li, a decent lead female for light-hearted near-romantic chemistry with him, and a complete focus on martial arts from start to finish with three separate schools of kung fu in the film, this is definitely one to watch if you’ve never seen it before and quite worth re-watching if you’ve not seen it in a few years as there are very few moments of boredom – it’s pretty much entertaining from start to finish if you haven’t watched it in years. The Master is not naturally an English language movie but there is a well dubbed English version which is almost as good for those who don’t like reading subtitles. With the humble budget, good lead cast, decent techniques and simple but effective storyline for the martial arts enthusiast we give this movie a rating of 7.5/10 which is a very respectable score.

Continued…