Movie Review: Wo hu cang long (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon)
Release Date: January 12, 2001
· Ang Lee
· Chow Yun-Fat
· Michelle Yeoh
· Zhang Ziyi
· Chen Chang
by Kenneth Leung
Published: July 22, 2000
Warning for action junkies who anticipate seeing "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon": Do not expect this film to be a total kung-fu movie! That is what I expected when I went to see "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" after seeing the trailer and the behind-the-scenes TV program. But with the action only kicking in after twenty minutes, the fighting sequences are there just to help the plot along its way.
What comes out instead is a deeply moving romantic drama that keeps true to its Chinese origins. It has flawed characters, both heroes and villains, who have to deal with friendship, passion, loyalty, revenge and a whole lot more. Throughout the film, I was kept wondering how the end will turn out for the characters in the story. The drama in the film should be credited to Ang Lee, who abstained from making another martial arts film and employed what he learnt from Hollywood to good effect in the film.
Yet the film’s main highlight is the acting of the lead character. Not by Chow Yun-Fat or Michelle Yeoh but Zhang Ziyi, who plays Jen. This young actress upstages her better-known co-stars every time she is on screen. She displays a ‘Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’ performance, going from clean-cut governess daughter to arrogant martial arts with relative ease. Big things should be expected of her in the future. Michelle Yeoh also puts in a pretty good performance, handling both drama and action pretty well, but the main male characters, played by Chow Yun-Fat and Chen Chang, do not have enough screen time to really establish their characters.
Other aspects of the film are amazing. It is visually stunning, from the vast city of Peking to the luscious green Wudan mountains beautifully pictured. The fight sequences are indescribable, with reminiscence of The Matrix clearly in my mind when seeing them in action. Yet they excel further, with much more aerial acrobatics and realism on display.
However there are few minor points that irritated me. When the main characters start to ‘fly’, it all looks a bit too fake. You just know that they were on strings, with special effects used to wipe out the strings in the film. Plot wise, the film meanders off half way through the story, having to explain the relationship between Jen and Lo. The ending was an anti-climax towards the whole film, with the final fight between Li Mu Bai and Jade Fox a short and disappointing one.
Overall, the film is both visually and dramatically stunning. It should please both action lovers and romantics alike.