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  •  REVIEW: HERO

    Hero

    Hidden dragon

    Lurking inside the Chinese martial-arts spectacular "Hero" is a sinister force indeed — an ethic that blatantly justifies the repression and murder of political opponents.

    By JOSHUA TANZER
    Offoffoff.com

    Other reviews will surely gush about its fast-paced martial-arts action and lush, colorful photography, but the truly jaw-dropping thing about "Hero" is how it instantaneously turns from "Crouching Tiger II" to "Honey I Shot the Dissidents."

      
    HERO
    Original title: 英雄.
    Directed by: Zhang Yimou.
    Written by: Li Feng, Wang Bin, Zhang Yimou.
    Cast: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang, Chen Daoming, Donnie Yen.
    Cinematography: Christopher Doyle.
    Edited by: Angie Lam, Vincent Lee, Zhai Ru.
    In Chinese with English subtitles.

    Related links: Official site
    The movie starts as a conventional but exquisitely filmed slice-'em-up — featuring several of the stars and production geniuses behind such breakthrough hits as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" and "In the Mood for Love." The hero (Jet Li), referred to only as "Nameless," is invited into the throne room of the first Chinese emperor, Qin Shi Huangdi (Chen Daoming), to recount how he has vanquished three assassins who sought to once sought to slay the emperor. But with each retelling, the story changes and it appears uncertain whether Nameless is really a loyal hero or a secret assassin himself.

    Hero  
    To explain what's fundamentally wrong with this seemingly straightforward epic, it's necessary to violate the usual rules of film reviewing and discuss the ending in detail.

    If you're sure you want to read the spoilers, click here.

    The words and deeds that close the film may strike most Westerners as simply part of a stock fable, comfortably distant in the past and in a remote culture — but they are a hidden dragon. The message of this made-up legend was not written for American ears — it was made for a Chinese audience, to whom the words will burst off the screen as if written in flames. The emperor stands for today's rulers, who routinely justify human-rights horrors in the name of national unity and stability. Internally, they use the Taiwan unification issue to whip up political support; externally, they continue to justify the Tiananmen Square massacre, repression of Falun Gong and religious observers, political arrests, and other human-rights abuses. "Everybody attacks us! Nobody understands what we are trying to do!" is almost exactly what the Chinese government says of itself every time meddling outsiders find fault. Just this summer on the Tiananmen Square anniversary, a government representative defended the 1989 massacre as necessary to protect the country from the forces of chaos. The distinction between students with signs and assassins with swords is lost on them.

    Plenty of people will just sit back and enjoy the fast-paced action, charismatic actors and lush colors of "Hero," so why get stuck on this one issue? Well, this question about how to respond to pro-fascist film has been around almost as long as film itself — we still debate the merits of the pro-slavery "Birth of a Nation" and the pro-Nazi "Triumph of the Will." (I would even throw in the less overtly pro-Jim Crow "Gone with the Wind.") And the answer to that question is that films help shape our visual, psychological and intellectual instincts, and this is a film that teaches beauty, violence and authoritarianism at once. A beautiful film that exalts killing opponents of the state is a beautiful parchment on which is written, in the most elegant calligraphy, a manifesto for evil.

    AUGUST 27, 2004
    OFFOFFOFF.COM • THE GUIDE TO ALTERNATIVE NEW YORK


    Reader comments on Hero:

  • Talk about over-analyzing!   from Hiro Protagonist, Aug 25, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Skizz, Aug 28, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Pete, Aug 29, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Jimbo, Sep 2, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Paul, Sep 3, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from saichoun, Sep 6, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from George, Sep 7, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Alex, Sep 10, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Charlie, Sep 17, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from mhar, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from NELSON O., Dec 10, 2004
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Charlie, Oct 24, 2005
  • Re: Talk about over-analyzing!   from Senkeh, Feb 5, 2006
  • Why I love this film.   from Frank, Aug 25, 2004
  • Re: Why I love this film.   from Kyle, Aug 30, 2004
  • Re: Why I love this film.   from Stacey Ryley, Oct 9, 2006
  • Re: Why I love this film.   from chris , Dec 14, 2008
  • Re: Why I love this film.   from tanner, Dec 17, 2008
  • Hero   from Emily, Aug 25, 2004
  • Re: Hero   from Jimbo, Sep 2, 2004
  • Re: Hero   from Videobrit, Sep 9, 2004
  • Remember that Mirimax shortened the movie   from James, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Remember that Mirimax shortened the movie   from No Name really, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Remember that Mirimax shortened the movie   from jyipdragon, Aug 28, 2004
  • Re: Remember that Mirimax shortened the movie   from jyipdragon, Aug 27, 2004
  • DVD 'Versions' of Hero in Australia.   from Adam, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: Remember that Mirimax shortened the movie   from chris , Dec 14, 2008
  • Re: Remember that Mirimax shortened the movie   from chris , Dec 17, 2008
  • I think you got the wrong message   from Jonathan, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: I think you got the wrong message   from Henry, Sep 6, 2004
  • Re: I think you got the wrong message   from mhar, Nov 24, 2004
  • Joshua tried but he still does not get it   from No Name really, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Joshua tried but he still does not get it   from jyipdragon, Aug 28, 2004
  • Re: Joshua tried but he still does not get it   from okidoki, Aug 31, 2004
  • Re: Joshua tried but he still does not get it   from I ain't Eddy, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: Joshua tried but he still does not get it   from Gordon, Feb 11, 2005
  • hero and the USA   from az886592, Aug 26, 2004
  • "The weather is fine!"   from CS, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: [no subject]   from Frank, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: [no subject]   from skwu, Aug 27, 2004
  • Not quite   from Victoria, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Not quite (actually close)   from bonnie, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Not quite (actually close)   from matt, Aug 30, 2004
  • Historical????   from jake, Sep 2, 2004
  • Valid critique of politics but...   from indra, Aug 26, 2004
  • Unprofessional   from bobby, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Unprofessional   from No Name really, Aug 26, 2004
  • Re: Unprofessional   from Anon, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: Unprofessional   from hobb, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: Unprofessional   from Cloud, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: Unprofessional   from Sean, Aug 30, 2004
  • truth   from What's American, Sep 7, 2004
  • Re: truth   from another american, Jan 1, 2005
  • Re: truth   from adude, Nov 6, 2005
  • How come everyone else says its good?   from Rob D, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: How come everyone else says its good?   from Terrence, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: How come everyone else says its good?   from Pete, Aug 29, 2004
  • Re: How come everyone else says its good?   from Shawn, Sep 3, 2004
  • Instant loss of argument via Godwins Law   from MortalWombat, Oct 4, 2004
  • Re: "everyone else" does not   from Paul, Aug 31, 2004
  • Re: How come everyone else says its good?   from I ain't Eddy, Nov 24, 2004
  • Pathetic...   from Bite My Ass, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: Pathetic...   from I ain't Eddy, Nov 24, 2004
  • [no subject]   from , Aug 27, 2004
  • What in the world are you talking about??   from Ken Glover, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: What in the world are you talking about??   from jim li, Aug 27, 2004
  • Which is more humorless the movie or the review   from Terrence, Aug 27, 2004
  • Hero   from , Aug 27, 2004
  • From a more literal standpoint   from Moron, Aug 27, 2004
  • Re: From a more literal standpoint   from George, Aug 28, 2004
  • Re: From a more literal standpoint   from Alex, Aug 30, 2004
  • Trying to be reasonable   from diagram, Aug 27, 2004
  • [no subject]   from Your Stupid, Aug 28, 2004
  • I agree - this is a nationalist film   from lmw, Aug 28, 2004
  • Re: I agree - this is a nationalist film   from Worgelm, Aug 30, 2004
  • thanks   from barb, Aug 28, 2004
  • U can make up stories but you can't change history   from Clairvoyant Gay, Aug 30, 2004
  • Birth of a Nation   from Songwon, Aug 30, 2004
  • [no subject]   from Jo, Aug 30, 2004
  • Joshua is Absolutely Right   from Byron, Aug 30, 2004
  • Re: Joshua is Absolutely Right   from okidoki, Aug 31, 2004
  • [no subject]   from Passerby, Aug 30, 2004
  • the meaning in my opinion   from someone, Aug 30, 2004
  • I agree with the review   from Sergei, Aug 31, 2004
  • Think about it, Americans !   from Hong Kong Clairvoyant, Aug 31, 2004
  • [no subject]   from matt, Aug 31, 2004
  • Communist Party's views on the Qin Emporer   from katharsis83, Aug 31, 2004
  • I totally agree proto-facist   from jake, Sep 2, 2004
  • Re: I totally agree proto-facist   from Poirrot, Apr 13, 2010
  • Joshua's view is not alone in his insight   from Shawn, Sep 2, 2004
  • United on earth   from Fred, Sep 2, 2004
  • Peace and happiness for who?   from jake, Sep 3, 2004
  • Re: United on earth   from Shawn, Sep 3, 2004
  • I left the theater   from Henry, Sep 6, 2004
  • Re: I left the theater   from John, Sep 9, 2004
  • I just saw the movie   from Edwin, Sep 6, 2004
  • "Independence Day" was more offensive   from Joce, Sep 6, 2004
  • Re: 'Independance Day' was more offensive   from war bastard, Apr 14, 2005
  • Re:review   from JoeSchmo, Sep 7, 2004
  • Truth and fiction of Chinese history.   from Noname, Sep 8, 2004
  • Wrong! Wrong! Wrong!   from Alfred, Sep 9, 2004
  • [no subject]   from John Lee, Sep 9, 2004
  • You hit the nail on the head   from lotus, Sep 10, 2004
  • Awesome   from Dan Omlor, Sep 13, 2004
  • Reviewer is right, finally!   from Willy Beamish, Sep 14, 2004
  • Compared to 1984   from None, Sep 15, 2004
  • About Hero....   from Tula, Sep 15, 2004
  • To each his own   from cj, Sep 18, 2004
  • Re: To each his own   from cj, Sep 18, 2004
  • A tragic hero for the common good   from Menard, Sep 21, 2004
  • review = wrong   from jon v, Sep 22, 2004
  • Re: review = wrong   from Mess, Sep 25, 2004
  • One more comment   from Tom, Nov 24, 2004
  • Hero's Historical Footing   from adam, Nov 24, 2004
  • Communist Justification?   from michael, Nov 24, 2004
  • "Hero" is just vile   from Tim Toldrum, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: [no subject]   from Charlie, Nov 24, 2004
  • Re: [no subject]   from ET, Dec 10, 2004
  • Re: "Hero" is just vile   from chris , Dec 17, 2008
  • THANK YOU!   from I ain't Eddy, Nov 24, 2004
  • But "Hero" is a CRITICISM of the Chinese gov't!!!   from NamelessObserver, Dec 15, 2004
  • Re: But   from skeptikos, Dec 26, 2004
  • Wrong Analyzation   from Ender, Jan 14, 2005
  • Supposed to be...?   from NineTailedFox, Jan 22, 2005
  • HERO is an elegy, with profound politics   from chinese dissidents, Jan 23, 2005
  • Re: HERO is an elegy, with profound politics   from chinese dissidents, Jan 24, 2005
  • Re: HERO is an elegy, with profound politics   from chinese dissidents, Jan 28, 2005
  • Re: HERO is an elegy, with profound politics   from Jerry Miller, Aug 23, 2010
  • forgot to comment on Joshua's review   from wen, Jan 23, 2005
  • Re: forgot to comment on Joshua's review   from Preb, Jan 24, 2005
  • hero   from tso t'an, Feb 21, 2005
  • Re: hero   from Joe Bleaux, Mar 12, 2005
  • Greek to me   from BrokenWord, Mar 15, 2005
  • A wonderful film - NOT political !   from Robin, Jul 25, 2005
  • Re: A wonderful film - NOT political !   from Wallby, Aug 7, 2005
  • Critics that are lost???   from , Aug 26, 2005
  • Re: Critics that are lost???   from Erin O'Connell, Jan 17, 2006
  • Re: Critics that are lost???   from brian, Dec 22, 2007
  • Re: Critics that are lost???   from Gil Barrett, May 31, 2009
  • propaganda for a new millenium   from sperlicha, Sep 25, 2005
  • PERFECT review   from Tyler, Oct 31, 2005
  • ask   from mujahid, Mar 31, 2006
  • Re: ask   from Bubba Hotep, Apr 11, 2006
  • IRRELEVANT   from Magda Ryley, Oct 9, 2006
  • ???   from Kessel, Nov 4, 2007
  • Die westeners!   from Xiao Chen, Aug 17, 2009
  • Re: Die westeners!   from Poirrot, Apr 13, 2010
  • Bravo   from tsering, May 29, 2010

  • Post a comment on "Hero"