Chow Yun Fat
After years of combat, a Wudan warrior (Chow Yun Fat) decides to withdraw himself from service and give his mythical sword, The Green Destiny, to a close friend before he formally “retires”. Much to his dismay, the weapon is stolen by a masked thief and he must now track down his prized sword before it falls into the wrong hands. We also encounter a young aristocrat (Zhang Ziyi) who we learn has a dark past and may not be who she presents herself to be. The warrior, along with one of his companions (Michelle Yeoh), must now hunt down the thief while avenging the death of his long dead master.
It was very cool to finally see Chow Yun Fat in a role which didn’t involved him annihilating seedy gangsters in his traditional two fisted guns ’a blazing style. And while this is his first martial arts movie, he fits right in and looks like a natural, complete with some truly insane swordsmanship. Michelle Yeoh and co-star Zhang Ziyi are terrific too as the tough as nails female fighters. My biggest beef with the movie rested with its overall pacing which I found had the tendency to periodically bog down just when things started to get interesting. This really hurt the movie, particularly halfway through, when things shifted towards this drawn out romantic flashback. Parts of the movie also has scenes which momentarily border on melodrama but again, I’m nitpicking. Special mention goes out to director Ang Lee and choreographer Yuen Wo Ping for creating some stunning visuals, the countless gravity defying fight sequences are truly the crown jewel of this movie. With great acting, incredible action and beautiful visuals, this one is sure to please most moviegoers.
Much to my surprise, the DVD doesn’t include a particularly incredible array of extras. “Bravo: Unleashing the Dragon” is 21-minute "behind the scenes" featurette which blends cast and crew interviews with plenty of production footage. After having seen the movie, I was dying to see how they managed to create many of the wire-fu shots and while the DVD does briefly shed some light on the subject, I was expecting so much more. We also learn that star Chow Yun Fat spent months training for his role, to achieve the skills necessary to engage in many of his sword fights. A bit part also shows Chinese singer Coco Lee recording the movie’s title theme, “A Love Before Time”. The last four or so minutes of this extra is devoted entirely to the design and conception of the movie’s score which was a nice little nod to composer Tan Dun. “A Conversation with Michelle Yeoh” runs about 13 minutes and is pretty much self explanatory. She focuses on what attracted her to the project and her experiences working with Lee and Yun Fat. A 6-minute slide show montage from the movie as well as production notes finishes up the extras. The DVD features some wicked menus, with snippets from many of the martial arts confrontations from the movie.