|<||Rating: PG-13 for swordplay and rape
Starring: Jet Li, Zhang Ziyi, Donnie Yen
Directed By: Zhang Yimou
Zhang Yimou’s Hero is perhaps the most critically acclaimed film to hit multiplexes this year, and after a viewing of it I can’t fathom why. Billed as the second coming of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and laced with a touch of Rashomon, the film never fails to look beautiful or to supply a tragic “Eastern” plot. But it lacks anything that’s memorable or even extremely impressive, especially in its story.
If you listen to the American trailer, you’d assume this was a remake of Kill Bill, especially considering it was the money of Quentin Tarantino that got the film brought to the US. Just listen to the trailer’s narration:
On a mission of revenge against the army that massacred his people.
Now, to make wrong things right, He must take on the empire’s most ruthless assassins,
To reach the enemy he has sworn to defeat.
In reality, Hero is probably the antithesis of Kill Bill, focused less on battles (I’ve got to assume a director’s cut with longer fight scenes is due…if not, they’re extremely short and surprisingly lackluster) and more on politics. The plot’s heavy-handed approach to this plot is at times overbearing, and those looking for a Kill Bill like load of unrelenting swordplay and something-fu will be disappointed.
There’s too much that looks good in Hero for me to completely disown it, especially in its use of colors that is nothing short of amazing. But, when comparing it to similar works like Crouching Tiger or Kill Bill, it falls squarely into the “wholly unmemorable” category. Hero is an overly ambitious film whose political messages surely must mean something in its homeland. But, to our different culture, it falls flat, at least in this viewer’s eyes.