Martial Arts
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Dir: Ang Lee
Star: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Chen Chang, Ziyi Zhang
Cert / Year: 12 - PG13 / 2000
Format: DVD R1

Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) is a legendary warrior who welds the Green Destiny sword (a sort of ultimate weapon of feudal times), however he has decided to give up his warrior lifestyle in order to court his unrequited love Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Unfortunately before he can do this his sword is stolen by the talented young disciple of his long standing enemy Jade Fox (Pei-pei Cheng). To add to his troubles he must also deal with the errant daughter of he governor, Yu Jen (Ziyi Zhang), who has escaped from her arranged marriage to join her lover the bandit Dark Cloud (Chen Chang).

Sumptuous is a word rarely used outside of interior design programs, but it is a word that perfectly describes the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The whole film is truly beautiful to behold, all the way from the vast desert landscapes, to the sprawling cityscape of Beijing. Ang Lee's eye for spectacular scenery is unsurpassed, and here it is used to add a lot the atmosphere to the film.

Added to this direction is a good story, or rather two love stories. This differs form your usual fair due to characters being bound by the codes of their society, such as duty and honour. It is the complexity of the script which provides the main difference from other Hong Kong cinema titles (that and the rather increased budget). The script also provides good dialogue and a set of interesting well rounded characters. Of course this being a film of oriental extraction we have all of this mixed with some fantastic martial arts.

The fight choreographer is Woo-ping Yuen who has recently won western acclaim for his work on The Matrix (and upcoming sequels). For the most part the fight scenes are expertly crafted affairs, executed with precision by a talented selection of actors. Particularly effective are the fight in the trees, and the night time fight with Jade fox in the park. There is however a problem, and that is the propensity for the characters to "fly". These wire effects were used with refrain and to great success in the Matrix, but here they are massively over used turning brilliant fight scenes into a "The Water Margin" inspired farce. The chase across the rooftops illustrates this point perfectly, watch the actors frantically running in mid air only detracts from the action, and induces unintentional humour. As previously mentioned there are examples when the right mix is reached, as in the tree fight, but this is the exception rather than the rule.

This is not the only fault, the film does drag a bit and in the middle the pace drops. This is mostly during the telling of the second (and somewhat superfluous) love story between Jan and Lo. It would have been preferable if most of this was cut, shortening things by about 10 minutes or so. Lastly Jade Fox's disciple suffers from what I like to call Anakin syndrome. That is that they are so instantly dislike able and annoying you wish the hero would instantly kill them saving us (and him) a whole lot of trouble.

So overall Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is not the classic some said it was, but it is a worthwhile film. It has done more than any other film to promote Hong Kong \ Chinese Cinema, and maybe now people will be prepared to try films like Once upon a time in China or Drunken Master which are just as good if not better. It is easy to see why it has done so well compared to many western films of recent years, but there are better Hong Kong \ Chinese Cinema out there so give them a go.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Picture 2.35:1 Anamorphic Great Picture
Audio Dolby Digital 5.1 Great with some nicely used effects like the drums during the roof top chase. The well translated subtitle option is easy to read (with some faults, like Jen claiming she used to play with the soldiers weapons!). The dubbing is of top class and ties in with the subtitles. There are faults like the Japanese \ Mexican accent for Lo.
Features Audio Commentary with Ang Lee and James Schamus
20 minute making-of documentary
13 minute interview with Michelle Yeoh
Photo Gallery
Produiction Notes
Verdict Overall a good quality DVD befitting such a major film.

Rating: 3 out of 5

Reviewed by Glitz Link Back Top Home