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4.1 out of 5 stars
Quentin Tarantino Presents: Hero [DVD] [2004]
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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 5 October 2007
Director Zhan Yimou is a great director of drama. But he has never directed an action film before. So I went into this with some trepidation. But he has shown with 'Hero', that he is an overall great director. This movie was very well cast and directed.

Jet Li plays a nameless warrior who presents to the Emperor of Qin the weapons of the three greatest assassins. All of who had sworn to kill him. We are taken on a trip through the stories of the Nameless and how he killed the three assassins. And then once again when the emperor tells us his interpretation of what he perceives happen. Ever perception of the story has its on emotions, visually displayed by its own primary color. The filming is also epic; they were able to use the Chinese army to fill in as extras for the emperor's army.

The conflict shows us the emotions involved with what that emperor was trying to do; unite the seven provinces under one rule. It does delve into both side's reasons and how one person's assassin is another's hero. And what we learn is both sides of any conflict have its heroes. But the main theme this movie tries to get across is that it is a great hero who thinks of his land before his own desires.

For the martial artist we are treated to Jet Li and Donnie Yen fighting each other. It is a wonderful fight. And I hope we do not have to wait years to see them paired up again. This fight alone is worth watching the movie for.
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46 of 48 people found the following review helpful
A foreign-language film with subtitles becoming No1 at the American box-office? Impossible, you may feel, but Hero managed it. Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon had opened up a new market for Western audiences, and Hero was one of many films to benefit.

The plot? A lowly official (Jet-Li) is brought before the Emperor to be rewarded for killing three martial-arts experts who had previously attempted to assassinate the ruler; Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung) and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung). The Emperor invites him to describe just how he managed to kill all three when his own army had failed. We then see in flashback the fights that took place, but the Emperor is dissatisfied with the explanation and offers his own interpretation...

This film is a visual work of art. The style is like to Crouching Tiger in that the abilities of the characters are beyond reality - they can fly through the air and walk on water - a wuxia film, but this has been taken to epic proportions - including using the Chinese Army as extras firing thousands of arrows into the sky! Colour is of particular importance here - as most of the fights are shown in flashback and are revisited to show another perspective, the characters and scenery are colour-coded and change with each version. The soundtrack too, from Tan Dun and Itzhak Perlman, is very haunting and memorable.

The director went on to direct House of Flying Daggers after this which is also a visual treat. That film seems to get more attention but out of the two, whilst I like them both, I would actually put this one first as, to me, Daggers seems to run out about two-thirds through whereas the non-linear narrative in this film keeps the interest in the story going. Try it and see.

Finally, in this edition, you can select to watch a dubbed version - instead of with subtitles if they're not your thing.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 22 March 2007
I have seen Hero several several times since its release even outside of Europe, and never do I tire of it, always there is something new for me and always does it succeed in captivating my emotion - so much so I feel a few words are due in praise of it.

A man, Nameless, is summonned before the emporer of Qin to explain how he managed to kill three of the most wanted assassins in the lands. Through questions intermingled with some of the most beautifully choreographed fighting scenes, the truth is slowly revealed like a flower blossoming in the moonlight.

As the viewer, you are taken on a journey to see how Nameless came to be before the emporer through vivacious settings that are so incredible you will want to almost reach out and touch them - be thankful it isn't in HD or you would probably get fingerprints over the screen.

The fusion of genres, romance, action, drama, is so perfectly executed it suceeds wholly in absorbing you in to its' world. Indeed, when watching it I don't even notice the time. This is not a film you will watch and think 'I could use a break right now' - on that note make sure you don't need the toilet beforehand. Adding to this, the sounds (and by sounds I mean the effects, ambient etc.) are so flawless in managing to captivate you in to thier domain, that when there is rain in the film you will be forgiven if you go to grab your umbrella.

As much as this film is incredible, there are some tiny flaws which are quite unfortunate, one of which significant enough to mention. The translation of what Nameless writes: "Our land" is criminally bad, as it is infinitely more appropriate to be translated as "All under heaven" - I encountered this translation before the dvd was available outside china, and as I am sure you will agree when you watch it, it is a much nicer translation in the spirit of the film. Quite why it became "Our land" upon the release in the US and UK is beyond me, perhaps because of the religious implications, or 'americanism' - who knows.

The last thing that needs to be said is in regard to the audio languages. Yes, you can watch it dubbed in English if you want, or French for that matter, but please PLEASE do not even think about it. Fair enough if you have difficulty in reading subtitles fast enough, but even then I would wholeheartedly recommend you try. I say this, because the pathos of the characters emotion is only really carried in Chinese. That is, you only really get a sense of the true emotion and the true spirit of the film if you appreciate the original voice cast. It does not matter if you do not understand Chinese - neither do I!

At the end of it all, Hero is by far one of my all time favourite films. If I feel I want to watch it, I do not - lest it have less of an effect it should - I make myself wait for another 1-2 months until i REALLY want to watch it so it can be almost as good as it was the first time. It never seems to age or get tiring, and it will never becomes a time too many to watch. If you feel like something with a very distinctly different feel than the ostentatious 'western' films, you simply can't go wrong with Hero.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Hero genuinely impressed me, much to my surprise - I'm not a fan of the humourlessly one-note Jet Li, who has always struck me as a character from Mystery Men who didn't make the final cut (useless `super' power - the ability to wave a flagpole around very, very fast) and after all the fuss made over the tedious, overlong and undernourished Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was expecting the Western critical praise to translate into another tired and overfamiliar movie that appealed mainly to people who hadn't seen much Eastern cinema. Boy, was I wrong. A gorgeous looking epic with a real sense of scale and amazing visuals allied to a complex plot, I was kicking myself for not seeing this one on the big screen. Not everything is successful (the duel on the lake never quite works), but more than enough is to guarantee repeat viewings. Li's limitations are used well for once and while Ziyi Zhang's petulant acting still doesn't entirely convince me, it's surprising to find the weakest performance coming from the film's best actor, Tony Leung Chiu Wai. Never at his most convincing in fantasy swordplay movies (the introspective Ashes of Time excepted), he seems a little underpowered for such an iconic role. But these are minor quibbles with a major delight.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
In recent years, Zhang Yimou has been creating some truly epic movies -- expansive, lushly opulent action films with a heavy dose of tragedy and romance. And before he even created "House of Flying Daggers," Yimou created "Hero" -- visually rich, stunningly action-packed, and beautifully made, "Hero" is a unique film that takes the soul and senses on a rollercoaster ride.

Ancient China (third century B.C.) was divided into seven kingdoms, and the most powerful lord was the King of Qin (Chen Dao Ming). He wants to unite China under his own rule. But he lives in fear of his life, most particularly from a trio of deadly assassins: "Broken Sword", "Flying Snow" and "Long Sky" (Tony Leung, Maggie Cheung, Donnie Yen respectively). And lest they get close to him, everyone is kept at a far distance and the King is surrounded by armed guards.

Then a man called Nameless (Jet Li) arrives, announcing that he has somehow killed them, and is actually permitted to sit within a certain distance of the King. How could he have killed three incredibly powerful warriors? Not just by his impressive martial arts skills, but through his cunning as well. He uses sexual divisions and jealousy, calligraphy (yes, calligraphy), and his wits to defeat all three assassins in turn.

But the king is not convinced that Nameless is telling the whole truth, and concocts a version of his own that also explains Nameless' actions and choices. A game of wits starts to form between the mysterious warrior and the wily king. What is the truth behind the hero's story?

Despite having been released much later, "Hero" was apparently the first of Yimou's wuxia action movies -- and while it doesn't cover much new ground in the fantasy martial arts area, it's a magnificent and awe-inspiring film. And perhaps most uniquely, it draws heavily on Akira Kurosawa's classic "Rashomon," by having the King and Nameless provide wildly different versions of the same story. What is the truth? It turns out to be far more complex than even those involved would have thought.

And Yimou's wire-fu creates a film where style and fantasy overcomes the realistic, full of lush color and swirling action scenes. People slash off hundreds of oncoming arrows and leap through walls of droplets -- just try doing that in the real world. And the fight scenes are, simply put, balletic -- they fight while suspended over a lake as their swords dip through the water, fight to music, battle in a swirl of fallen autumn leaves.

As exquisite as the action seems, it would be empty without a suitable plot to go with it -- and while deceptively simple, Yimou's storyline is actually rather complex emotionally. There's a passionate romance that is splintering apart, personal rivalry, and the whole question of what the titular character's plans are, and what he ultimately chooses to do. The one flaw is that I'm not sure why he makes the decision he does -- it seems rather out of left field.

Jet Li and Chen Dao Ming give the best performances of this film -- they both portray intelligent, suspicious men who are playing a strange game of truth and deception. Their back-and-forth conversations are entrancing. The three assassin actors -- as well as the wonderful Zhang Ziyi, as the mistress of one of the men -- are given secondary roles, but do an excellent job of imbuing them with little hints of humanity, tragic romance and briliant skills.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 July 2007
Hero has a very simply story. The leader of the Qin province of China is out to conquer the whole of China and then the world. Jet Li is the nameless hero who with the help of assasins, Sky, Broken Sword and Flying Snow must defeat him. First we get the story as Nameless tells it to the Emperor. Then we get what the Emperor thinks happened, then we finally get the actual events

The telling of this story is simply magnificent. Each separate strand has its own colour theme and is just visually stunning to watch. Certain scenes in this movie have stayed with me in the 3 years since I saw it for the first time.

Unusually for an action film, there is real emotion and drama in this film, courtesy of the excellent Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung.

I think this film was really clever in that it used dramatic actors as well as martial arts actors. The action choreography is so good that you would never guess most of the cast have never been trained in martial arts and because they are used to more dramatic roles, the emotion and performance they put into the film is incredible.

This is an incredible film, with a simple story, beautiful cinematography, astounding performances and brilliant action sequences. You should definitley own this movie.
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31 of 34 people found the following review helpful
I will not review the film itself but will comment on the Blu Ray version
After I swapped my House of Flying Daggers DVD to Blu Ray I was very upset with the upscale to High Def and as Hero was the only one left of this type of film I wanted on Blu Ray I feared the worst. However i can bring you great news that the picture quality in High Def is jaw droppingly beautiful and great sound to match.
Subtitles in English, French & Spanish, Audio DTS 5.1-HD English
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Hero is a beautiful work of art, a visual feast for the senses featuring a powerful, complex storyline and some of the most exquisite swordplay I've ever seen. Western filmmakers can never hope to rival the all-encompassing quality of a film like this because, to the West, martial arts are all about action, fighting, and violence. I'm no martial arts expert - not even close - but I do know that the true martial artist is, as the name says, an artist, one who uses his limbs and entire body as unconscious extensions of a mind that has become one with the life inside and around him; it is much more of a mental than a physical endeavor. And, as impressive as any particular fight scene may be, it is only secondary to whatever powerful forces lead up to it.
I see no reason why Western audiences would not be enthused by this movie; the story is built on many intriguing layers, but the basic plot is seemingly easy to understand. Jet Li plays a nameless warrior who comes to the court of the king (Daoming Chen) of the Quin province to present him with the swords of his greatest enemies, the assassins Sky (Donnie Yen), Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), and Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung). Quin is the largest and most powerful of the Six Kingdoms, and the king's dreams of unification have been stymied for years because of the dangers posed by these deadly assassins. The nameless hero is the first person granted the right to come closer than 100 paces from the king in the last three years. It is odd that the knowledgeable king knew nothing of this minor official turned hero before now, so he is most interested in hearing how the nameless warrior dispatched the three most deadly fighters in all the land. We are shown the story in a series of cinematographically gorgeous flashbacks awash in the most absorbing, vibrant of colors. If you're thinking this sounds like a pretty simple story, though, you are quite wrong. The king of Quin is a brilliant thinker who questions the nameless hero's story - and, eventually, the elusively remarkable truths standing at the heart of this epic film are revealed. Hero is sure to play more powerfully to the Chinese who see in the king of Quin the man who united the disparate kingdoms and basically forged the Chinese nation-state, but the revelations imbedded in this intriguingly complex story contain nuggets of understanding for all who will see, hear, and contemplate them.
The fight scenes that dominate the film are just exquisitely done. You don't see a lot of martial arts films centered on the sword rather than hand-to-hand combat - probably because swordplay is difficult to master and choreograph. The performers make it look as natural as breathing in this movie, however - it's not only incredibly impressive, it's extraordinarily beautiful to watch. Wires schmires - it's pure poetry in motion. Tan Dun's soundtrack only adds to the wondrous effect with its endlessly haunting strains.
What really makes Hero stand out is the complexity of its characters. The nameless hero, Sky, Broken Sword, Flying Snow, the king of Quin - these are not simple warriors; they are intricate creatures with deep, long-standing motivations, connoisseurs of the art they pursue, master strategists, dreamers, and men and women with ideals far more powerful than themselves.
I have to mention the fact that Ziyi Zhang appears in this film as an apprentice to Broken Sword - although hers is not a major part. Many will recognize her from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and House of Flying Daggers. For my money, she's the brightest light in Hong Kong cinema.
This film is truly epic in scope - in terms of the cinematography as well as the incredible performances. The only recent martial arts film I rate higher than Hero is House of Flying Daggers - and I don't expect any movie to top that extraordinary masterpiece any time soon.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This peerless martial arts film is a masterpiece of cinema. A nameless warrior has succeeded in killing the three most feared assassins in the land and confronts the king of Qin with the tale of his battles. Almost everything about this film is brilliant, the fight choreography, performances of those involved and the sheer visual spectacle of the film are beyond compare. Hero also has one of the most beautiful scores that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing. The one small downside that the film has is that the CGI used to represent the massed arrows of the Qin army are somewhat lacklustre but when the rest of the film is so good you can excuse these things. The film is exciting, thoughtful and sad all at the same time. It is difficult to express in words how much I love this film, it is quite simply in my opinion the greatest film I have ever seen.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Excellent wire-work choreography is stunning to look at, but it doesn't make a great film on its own.

Initially I thought that that was all I was going to get, the film didn't seem to offer much more than the un-named hero telling three stories of how he managed to kill the three most wanted would-be assassins to the Emperor....

...But how wrong I was - what appears to be an over simplistic story ends up gloriously laced with twists and by the end of the film you fully understand, and have a respect for both the assassins and the Emperor.

As with House of Flying Daggers, there is a reliance of colours throughout the film, with many scenes using mainly grey visuals with an emphasis on one bright colour. This seems to be one of Yimou Zhang's signatures as a director and is incredibly effective at giving the film a stylish look, and many of the colours are symbolic in some way.

I've already mentioned the choreography, and this is coupled with some effective CGI. Sometimes CGI can appear obvious and results in you stepping out of the film as believability ebbs away. But here it looks natural, and adds to the epic feel of the film - the arrows from the archers in the battle scenes are amazing, and the visuals of such a vast army are breathtaking.

In a nutshell: What I thought was going to be a pretty shallow film became an epic with a deep emotional edge. There are no 'goodies' or 'baddies' in this film - just people who are prepared to die for what they believe in. We are left in silent respect in front of the screen at the end, but with the knowledge that after the credits have rolled, those who were prepared to die for their beliefs, gave their lives to make a change.
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