Billed as Jet Li’s final martial arts epic, you should know to expect plenty of fight scenes in this film. But there is also a plot and a storyline too. One that revolves around the historical figure of Huo Yuanjia, a man who in his early life won great renown as a fighter and practitioner of wushu a skill he learned despite his father’s orders to the contrary.
His skills and wins turned him far too arrogant, and we all know that pride comes before a fall. In this case he challenged another local fighter and ended up killing him. In revenge his own family, his small daughter and his mother, was killed. Despair drove him to leave home and he wandered for many miles before almost drowning and being rescued by villagers.
Life in this small village agreed with him, and taught him to live again. And because the film starts a later date and reveals all this through an extended flashback, we know that eventually he will return to wushu, not for his own glorification, but for the good of China.
Overall this isn’t a great film. The fight scenes all look fantastic, the cinematography and look of the film is lovely, but the plot and characterisation lets the rest of this down. It isn’t terrible, merely so-so.
Perhaps if I knew about Huo Yuanjia then maybe it would have made a greater impact, but despite the more gripping ending, the film is quite mediocre.