I'm not big on martial arts films - I'll admit that right off the bat here. The problem for me is that there's a limit to how much fighting I can watch without a meaningful context, and so many of these films simply go overboard on the choreography and, I guess the word would be "underboard", on story and character.

Like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - which, face it, is my primary reference point here - the story takes precedence, a tale of assassins and a paranoid leader, honor and principle. I'll leave out any details of the story itself, as the joy of the film is directly related to learning what's going on.

The narrative jumps around non-linearly, even showing events unfold with different truths. I've heard it mentioned elsewhere that this was confusing, but I didn't find it so. In fact, I am pleased the movie does not underestimate the audience - though in the end, the reality of what's happened is actually more clear than it needed to be.

Thankfully for me, the fighting is a small part of the whole, and usually the context gives us some kind of insight on the characters. I do find it a little old at this point to see the same wire-fighting techniques so popularized with Crouching Tiger, again and again. There's imagination involved, but in the end, I've already known these people are all badasses since the first act, and there's little point to it all except justifying the film's wire-removal budget. Perhaps I'd be a little more lax if not for having seen the second Charlie's Angels, which blew just about all the stylized fighting karma out of the universe for good.

The one thing I really liked was this peek inside another value system. You'd never see a Hollywood film with this kind of ending, or even much of the plot as a whole. American, even most western film, prides itself on individuals, with characters built up larger than life, who end up standing amongst the ashes on the side of might making right. The pull between the what's good for the individual and what's good for the group has always existed in human cultures. Hero takes another perspective on that equation, one worthy of our consideration. For those having seen the film, I'm not saying it stands as any kind of model for human behavior, just that so often decisions are made in this world without a realistic idea of what they mean. In the end, it shouldn't the individual versus the group, it should be the individual and the group.

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