Despite numerous big budget attempts, Jet Li's English-language films have always been a very, very poor second to the films he's made back in the East – just look at how the recent 'Hero' towers above a string of duds which includes 'Unleashed', 'Cradle 2 the Grave' and 'The One'. 'Fearless', however, will give his fans scenes to savour, and is a milestone because Li has said it will be his final martial arts epic. We'll see.
It tells the true story of Huo Yuan Jia (Li), a turn-of-the-last-century Chinese fighter who raised the profile of martial arts across the world and became a national hero in the process. We see him go from a brilliant but cocky fighter to a man humbled by personal tragedy, who returns to the ring a more spiritual human being.
While 'Fearless' comes from the producer of 'Hero' and 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon', it doesn't have the crossover power of those films and will appeal mostly to martial arts and Chinese movie fans. It looks beautiful, and the fight sequences (from the legendary Yuen Wo Ping - 'Kill Bill', 'The Matrix' ) are breathtaking, but Li and director Ronny Yu fail to pull the full emotion from the storyline - it's never the heartwarmer and tearjerker that it could be.
If this proves to be Li's high-kicking swansong it's a big question as to what he'll do onscreen next. He's one of these actors who's at his best when his moves not his mouth do the talking. 'Fearless' doesn't hit enough highs to be a fitting farewell, but it does leave you wanting more.