Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon review

:. Director: Ang Lee
:. Starring: Chow Yun-Fat, Yu Shu Lien
:. Running Time: 2:00
:. Year: 2000
:. Country: Hong Kong, China

Drew Barrymore and company have nothing on Zhang Ziyi and Michelle Yeoh when it comes to elegant female warriors. Hong Kong martial arts, romance, magic, and drama combine to make a wonderful film. Ang Lee (The Ice Storm and Sense And Sensibility) has probably created the first Mandarin kung fu film that American girls can enjoy with their male counterparts.

Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Yu Shi Lien (Michelle Yeoh) are gifted warriors and old friends after a stolen sword, the Green Destiny. Their path crosses with the beautiful, noble (and brilliant warrior herself) Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi) suspected of stealing the sword.

There are three love stories here. Both Li Mu Bai and Yu Shi Lien are kindred spirits whose love for each other transcends the usual passion of physical love. Jen Yu and her boyfriend, the bandit Lo (Chen Chang) share the forbidden passion between nobility and commoner. The third love story is the one where Jen Yu must choose between the obvious affection that both Li Mu Bai and Yu Shi Lien have for her and the loyalty she has for the Jade Fox (Pei Pei Cheng). It's a classic story, and though you think you know what the outcome will be, it's still a genuine treat to watch.

For those unaccustomed to the genre, the incredible, elegant airborne battles—most impressively in the treetops, are wondrous. Woo Ping Yuen, who choreographed the fight scenes, also worked on The Matrix and as well as the upcoming Matrix 2. The scenes shot from above give the scenes a magical quality that seems real and not just throwaway special effects. Also enjoyable is Jen's "shoot' em up" scene in a Western style Chinese saloon where she kicks kung fu ass. The only difference is the lack of blood seen in the fight scenes.

The film has lots of heart and the drama is well acted by Fat, Yeoh, Ziyi, and Chang. Fat and Yeoh especially bring a nuance laden intensity when onscreen together. Pei Pei Cheng is wonderful as the nasty Jade Fox.

Forbidden love, ethereal battles, and a warrior's evolution combine with Yo Yo Ma's haunting score to create a gem.

  Fred Thom

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