Movie Review
Ying Xiong
Hero poster
By Greg Ward     Published September 7, 2004
US Release: August 27, 2004

Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Starring: Jet Li

Running Time: 96 minutes
Domestic Box Office: $53,583,000
The problem with Hero is that it presents a good idea, but doesn?t really go anywhere with it.
In 2000, a foreign film, ?Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon? burst onto the scene and dazzled many filmgoers, myself included. With amazing martial arts sequences, visuals to die for, and a mesmerizing story, it was a movie lover?s dream. Along comes the American release of ?Hero,? a film that tries so hard to accomplish what the former film did, but is nowhere near as successful.

At the beginning of the film, we learn that Ancient China was divided into seven kingdoms. We meet the Nameless Warrior (Jet Li), a man who claims to have beaten the three principal enemies of the King of the Northern Province (Daoming Chen). From this point on, we see countless flashbacks of these enemies, named Flying Snow, Broken Sword, and Sky fighting the Nameless Warrior and explaining their reasoning as to why the King should be assassinated.

The real problem with ?Hero? is that it presents a good idea, but doesn?t really go anywhere with it. At many times I was straining to get involved with the tale, yet was getting lost and confused between the never-ending flashbacks and the heavy amount of fight sequences. The nonlinear sequence worked so well for films such as both volumes of ?Kill Bill? because those films presented us with an interesting concept that was backed by thoughtful dialogue and characters who were easy to identify with and relate to. In ?Hero,? we are not really sure how to relate to the characters, much less the story.

Another concern of mine was Jet Li. When I first saw him, it was in ?Lethal Weapon 4,? and in that film, he came off as a serious kung fu master who knew martial arts like the back of his hand. In other films he has presented a certain emotional factor to his skills that made him a lot easier to like and understand. Here, he seems bored, expressing barely any emotion and I have never seen him so stiff. The Nameless Warrior seems like someone who is very strong and confident. Li?s performance came off as very forced, not expressing the emotion and confidence that seemed necessary for this character.

With all of that said, I have to admit that visually, this film is a masterpiece. Never before have I seen such great use of color and cinematography. Take for example the fight sequence between Flying Snow and Moon, servant to Broken Sword. In this scene, bright yellow leaves are used to interfere with an attempt by Moon to kill Flying Snow. The way the leaves swirl around is like a beautiful cinematic picture that director Yimou Zhang paints. He brings the audience inside the magnificent world of Ancient China by creating a backdrop that is realistic and beautiful at the same time.

While I feel that the large amount of the action sequences ruins the flow of the story, each action scene is an experience of its own. There is one scene in which the Nameless Warrior and Broken Sword battle on water: the use of slow motion and water is spectacular, presenting an image I have never seen in any kind of martial arts film before it. The same goes for many of the other fight sequences as well, it?s just a shame the film did not have much of a story to tell.

If you are looking for a film that will engage you in a well-thought plot, ?Hero? is not the movie to spend your money on. However, if you are looking for a film that will blow you away with visuals and action sequences that you never thought you would get to see, check it out; after all, it isn?t a bad film, just not one that I would recommend to everybody.
Greg's Grade: C+
Greg's Overall Grading: 25 graded movies
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'Hero' Articles
  • 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
  • Lee's review B
    August 27, 2004    This film is artsy and yet still gives in to a visual flare as irresistible as Crouching Tiger meets Kill Bill. -- Lee Tistaert