Movie Review
Ying Xiong
Hero poster
By Lee Tistaert     Published August 27, 2004
US Release: August 27, 2004

Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Jet Li

Running Time: 96 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $53,583,000
This film is artsy and yet still gives in to a visual flare as irresistible as Crouching Tiger meets Kill Bill.
Hero has a lot of things going in its favor, and so the criticism that I have doesn?t add much pressure to my overall opinion. But when there?s a film like this that has it right on in many different ways, and then that one crucial thing is missing to make the final leap to greatness, it can be a little frustrating and mildly disappointing. The film?s fight sequences and visual flare are some of the best offerings in recent time ? if only the story had connected with me deeper.

If there?s one thing Hero might do besides send some audiences in hysterics during its various fights, it?ll prove that Jet Li can actually be in a good film, and better yet, deliver a convincing performance. I?ve never been much of a fan, as his films are usually straightforward. In Romeo Must Die, he also had the help of wires to make him pull unrealistic moves. And with Cradle 2 the Grave, the script was so poorly written and the action sequences sucked.

In Hero, its martial arts performers sometimes have wires much like the actors in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; but it?s the culture within the story that, at least for me, makes the flying believable, and the manner in which it is executed here, quite exhilarating. This film is artsy and yet still gives in to a visual flare as irresistible as Crouching Tiger meets Kill Bill. The fights can make you cheer and get very involved, and the background pieces are always a marvel.

This film is technically breathtaking, but lacking ideal storytelling; regardless, this is a fun film to watch for those who admire the genre. And coming from someone who is not often won over by martial arts films, its maturity is one of its strongest components; we don?t have characters trying to be silly or cracking jokes, or even doing so during fights. The acting is also very defined, as there is seriousness to the performances that is likely to please the mature viewers who are usually discouraged at other light movies in this genre that are targeted at young moviegoers.

With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (B), I didn?t see a great film that some people saw, but I enjoyed it, liked the action (though I found it a little overrated), and the story took me in; I cared for the romance within, as well as the characters and plot points. With Hero, I felt part of the premise was too similar to Crouching Tiger, and as a result, was not taken in emotionally as much as I would?ve hoped considering the sophisticated direction that this project has.

But even though the story doesn?t excel to potential, Hero is still a very fine feast for the eyes and ears. Those who enjoyed Crouching Tiger (or even possibly Kill Bill) are likely to be fans of this, and while it is an art film more than it is mainstream, there is enough visual energy and intensity within the fights for other more mainstream viewers to get excited. The ending also didn?t extract the reaction from me that it was evidently reaching for, but I came out of Hero feeling like I had witnessed an experience, which is something I can?t say all that often about this genre.
Lee's Grade: B
Lee's Overall Grading: 2983 graded movies
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'Hero' Articles
  • Greg's review C+
    September 7, 2004    The problem with Hero is that it presents a good idea, but doesn?t really go anywhere with it. -- Greg Ward
  • Jennifer's review A-
    September 7, 2004    Everything in the film seems to have been planned with precision, all leading up to an emotional final showdown. -- Jennifer Alpeche
  • Craig's review C+
    August 30, 2004    Hero has so much that will shock you that it's a shame the story doesn't give us quite as much reason to care. -- Craig Younkin