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Movie Reviews

Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon  

Don't believe the hype! I have been hearing about this movie for months. It was supposed to knock the socks off Hollywood. It was going to take the art house film to the Mega-plex. It was a martial arts fantasy whose blend of flawless fight sequences and a powerful emotional story were sure to catapult it into contention for an Academy Award. I couldn't wait to see this one. Well, it appears that Sony and other movie web sites have over exaggerated about this one. What a shame, it's good but it could have been perfect.
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The film opens with warrior Li Mu Bai (played by Chow Yun Fat) Giving his sword to Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh) so she can return it to a mutual friend of theirs in Peking. The sword, called the Green Destiny, has existed for 400 years and has magical properties. By giving it away, Li Mu Bai hopes to enter a life of peace, not filled with violence and bloodshed. The sword is delivered to the house of the mutual friend. Yu Shu Lien meets Jen, a princess who is also staying at the friend's house. The princess is about to be married off to a man she does not love. That night a thief, who looks a lot like the princess, breaks in and steals the sword. Yu Shu Lien tries to stop the thief and a fight ensues. During the fight, she discovers that the thief knows the Wutan arts. The same style that Li Mu Bai has been trained in. This forces Li Mu Bai to seek after the thief and get his sword back.

What promises to be a good story with a great set up doesn't fall apart here. It just never reaches it's potential. The first fight scene between the thief and Michelle Yeoh caused the audience to break out in applause and rightly so. All of the fight scenes are lightning fast, a combination of ballet and martial arts. As they fight each other, run up walls and jump over rooftops you can't help but notice that there is a grace and elegance to the fight scenes that you haven't seen before. The scenes were done with harnesses that allowed the great acrobatics. The harnesses and wires were filtered out in postproduction so the characters can jump over roofs and climb over walls and back flip over each other effortlessly. When it is used for these actions, it works tremendously well. When it's used to make the characters effortlessly take off in extended jumps for 50 to 100 yards at a time, fails miserably and caused giggles and snickering from many people in the audience. There is a fight between two characters in the treetops that is ridiculous.

In general the story is good for a martial arts movie, but it is not without it's problems. We're told that Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat have been attracted to each other for some time. Due to certain circumstances they can not express that love for each other. We are told that. We aren't shown that. There are no knowing looks. There is no scene where they show the emotions only to have one or the other break away. The relationship between them doesn't carry any weight. There is a moment in the film between the two that should have had the audience in tears but falls flat because we aren't given anything that shows the love they have for each other.

The villains in the film are not as imposing as they should be. The young princess is skilled but not seasoned. The "Jade Fox" who has killed many of Li Mu Bai's friends and relatives should have been more of a match for the two heroes'. Instead we get a 50 something year old lady who isn't as trained in the Wutan arts as the other two. Not menacing and not a tough enough challenge to overcome.

This film entertained me but I was not overwhelmed by it as promised. The four principal actors all put in good performances and the sets and costumes are amazing to look at. If you are in the mood for a good martial arts fantasy movie with a good but not great story and amazing fight sequences you will enjoy this film. On a 1-10 I would rate this one a 7. It might have been higher if I was expecting less.

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