Film: Fearless

Between Japanese karate and Chinese wushu, let's see whose kung fu is stronger.

This is about the 2006 Chinese Wuxia movie. For the 1993 Peter Weir plane crash film, click here.

Fearless (original title: 霍元甲) is a movie starring Jet Li, directed by Ronny Yu and released in 2006. It is a fictionalized biopic of famous martial arts master Huo Yuanjia (1868-1910).

Huo was the son of a wushu professor in Tianjin, but because of his poor health, he wasn't allowed to study martial arts himself. However, after seeing his father lose a fight against a dishonorable adversary, he decides to become a master in his own right in order to redeem the family name.

As years go by, Huo's fame rises, but so does his vanity. One day, he confronts Qin, the master of a rival school and, in the heat of combat, deals him a deadly blow. The latter's followers retaliate by killing Huo's mother and daughter. Stricken with grief, he wanders the countryside in a state of shock, and is taken in by a kindly old woman and her blind granddaughter.

Sharing their life and that of the simple country folk in their village, he nurses himself back to psychological health. In 1907, a more mature and humble man, he returns to Tianjin, and is appalled by the decay of Chinese society and the arrogance of foreigners. He restores his fame by winning a fight against an American wrestler, and with the financial backing of an old friend founds the Jingwu Association, a martial arts school in Shanghai.

Contains examples of:

  • Absurdly Sharp Blade: Master Qin's sword.
  • Absurdly Sharp Claws: One of the opponents Huo Yuanjia fights uses a form named "Tiger Claw" that involves him scratching his opponent with his bare nails. Apparently, he can slowly rip your shirt if you let him get close enough.
  • Alternative Foreign Theme Song: In the Japanese release, the theme song was changed from "Fearless" to "Crime" by HIGH and MIGHTY COLOR. This apparently upset many Japanese fans of the original song.
  • Anti-Villain: Tanaka.
  • Arcadia: The village folks live an idyllic existence made of wholesome agrarian work and caring togetherness.
  • Arrogant Kung-Fu Guy: Huo is one before he learns better.
  • Audible Sharpness: When Huo fights Master Chin, their swords are very, very sharp, and therefore incredibly audible, even when they aren't moving...
  • Beat Them at Their Own Game: The last series of fight are this: he fights the boxer with his bare hands, the pikeman with a spear, and the fencer with a jian. Subverted during his first bout with Tanaka, though, where he countered the latter's katana with a completely unrelated weapon, the 3 sectioned staff.
  • Bittersweet Ending
  • Black Blood: Huo, due to the poison.
  • Blood from the Mouth: You know Huo has dealt his rival a killing blow when the latter spits blood. Likewise, he starts coughing blood when the poison kicks in.
  • Boxing Battler: The British fighter in the tournament against Huo.
  • Break the Haughty: Strikes Huo brutally.
  • Call Back: Huo's spinning forward punch, his killing technique. We first see him use it on Master Qin, killing him. He later uses it in his final match against Tanaka, though instead of going through with it, he pulls it at the last minute, illustrating how far he's come from what he once was.
  • Casualty in the Ring
  • Clothing Damage: Tiger claw moves seem to damage everything but the skin.
  • Completely Different Title: The original title is simply the hero's name.
  • Contemplative Boss: Huo's long-estranged friend strikes the pose when turning down a request to lend him money. On a later encounter, their reconciliation is illustrated by his turning from the window to face him as Huo enters the room.
  • Cool Sword: Master Qin's.
  • Crazy Homeless People: There's one who asks Huo when he will become the champion of Tianjin.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: One time Huo fought in the rain, and he beat the challengers (MANY!!!) without moving from his spot while holding an umbrella.
    • His first fight as a child is also this.
  • Death Glare: The look on Tanaka's face is terrifying after the corrupt Japanese businessman declares he "is not Japanese" for conceding the fight.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: Double Subverted. The U.S. wrestler is at first furious when Huo defeats him, but after Huo saves his life comes to respect him.
  • Doomed Moral Victor: Huo continues his fight against Tanaka, despite being poisoned. He fought for the pride of China.
    • Master Qin's relative who had killed Huo's mother and daughter. He waits by Master Qin's funeral pyre, thanks his godmother for taking care of the surviving relatives, then waits for an angry Huo to show up before committing suicide. Denying Huo his Roaring Rampage of Revenge drove him into a Heroic BSOD.
  • Dramatic Thunder: During Huo's Duel to the Death with Qin.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: O'Brien is the most prominent example. Before the fight, he mocks the "sick men of Asia" and claims he can demolish the Great Wall with one finger. However, he has a change of heart when Huo saves his life. The other Western fighters Huo faces also count.
  • Go-Karting with Bowser: Tanaka visits Yuanjia before the match, and they have tea and enjoy a friendly conversation about martial arts (and tea).
  • Good Colors, Evil Colors: Right before he lost his family, Yuanjia and his students wore all black. Later, he and the Jingwu Association members wore white tops.
  • Graceful Loser: Tanaka, who declared Huo the victor even though he's dying of poison. O'Brien starts off as a Sore Loser but becomes this after Huo saves him from falling on some spikes.
    • The Spanish fencer. Huo takes away his sword and points a jian to his throat. He looks at Huo, nods and smiles, with an obvious "good one" face. Huo smiles back and returns his sword.
    • Huo Endi, Yuanjia's father. In his fight with another martial artist at the beginning of the movie, even though he only lost because his opponent was an honourless bastard, he bowed and accepted his defeat without complaint.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: To a point - Tanaka manages to slice Huo's metal (or at least metal shod) three piece staff out of the air when Huo hurls it directly at his face, leaving a visible slice in it's structure and later in the duel slices easily through two of the chains holding the staff sections together. However the weapons are otherwise shown to be evenly matched.
  • The Hero Dies: Huo himself at the end.
  • How We Got Here: The story begins with the final fight, then goes back to Huo's childhood.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: If it were not for Huo catching him, this would have nearly happened to the U.S. Wrestler.
  • Insistent Terminology: During the fight with his childhood rival.
    Cat's claw?
    Tiger claw!
  • I Will Wait for You: Yueci.
  • Motivational Lie: In an inversion of a Tactful Translation, the wrestler's Chinese manager tells the wrestler that Huo's polite speech that condemns death matches was a Badass Boast by Huo saying that he was going to beat the wrestler up. The wrestler is fired up after hearing that.
    He wants to kick your butt!
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The trailer gives you a pretty good idea of the plot of the last half-hour of the movie, giving the impression that its a much more action-oriented film.
  • No Sell: couple of Huo's kicks and moves cause him to stumble against the U.S. Wrestler.
  • Oh, Crap: O'Brien has two when his body slam gets countered perfectly and when Huo rescues him from impaling his head.
  • Old Retainer: Huo's personal servant.
  • Sword Sparks: During the duel with Qin.
  • 10-Minute Retirement: Huo's time in the village. Actually, he's there for a few years, but that's the idea.
  • Unskilled, but Strong: Hercules O'Brien is this compared to Yuanjia. Unlike many examples of this trope, he is actually very good at utilizing his massive strength to cover up his weaknesses. Behind Tanaka and Master Qin, he gave Yuanjia the most trouble out of his opponents.
  • Use Your Head: Hilariously fails.
  • Wire Fu: There is some, though not nearly as much as in Wuxia films.
  • What the Fu Are You Doing?: When Tanaka, the Japanese fighter, swipes Huo's three-section staff during their fight (losing his katana to Huo in the process), both men switch fighting styles. Nearly averted at first, with Tanaka dual-wielding the outer sections competently. But all bets are off once Tanaka tries to do a fancy around-the-back spin move, and whacks himself in the head. Huo graciously returns Tanaka's sword, and Tanaka does likewise with Huo's staff.
    • Also interesting is the fact that Huo doesn't really switch fighting styles. Instead of using a katana style, he swings the katana one-handed with many circular movements, exactly how he would wield a Dao (Chinese single-bladed sword).
  • World of Ham: Everything is dramatic. Westerners are especially shouty.
    • Foreign businessman are especially sinister. One of them strongly resembles a Dastardly Whiplash. And Corrupt Japanese Businessman is basically reprising his role in The Last Samurai.
  • Worthy Opponent: Tanaka epitomises this trope - offering Huo a chance to fight the next day to make the contest fairer (after fighting three other opponents before him), immediately halting his attacks and attempting to stop the contest when Huo is taken ill and conceding the match and leading the cheering for Huo's victory when he realises Huo could have easily killed him with the final blow.
    • The U.S. wrestler eventually comes to consider Huo this as well.
  • You Can Barely Stand: Huo decides to carry on with the fight even though he's dying from poisoning.