Jet Li’s 2006 movie Fearless tells a fictionalized story about Huo Yuanjia, and 2 deleted scenes greatly elevate his character arc in the film.
The director’s cut of Jet Li’s 2006 movie Fearless includes two key deleted scenes that add greatly to the martial arts film. Directed by Ronny Yu and marketed as Jet Li’s final martial arts epic, Fearless tells the story of Huo Yuanjia, a famed exponent of Mizongyi kung fu and founder of the Chin Woo Athletic Association. Thought Fearless tells a largely fictionalized version of Huo’s life, Li’s performance as the kung fu master was praised as a fantastic final portrayal of a real-life Chinese kung fu legend by Li.
Yu’s director’s cut adds some 35 minutes back into the film, and includes two key scenes that add more layers to Huo’s arc of understanding life and the meaning of martial arts. The first is in the film’s intro in contemporary times, with Ms. Yang, played by Everything Everywhere All At Once star Michelle Yeoh, making the case before the Olympic committee for the inclusion of modern Wushu as an Olympic event. Yang makes her argument by presenting the literal translation of Wushu from Mandarin Chinese as “The way to avert conflict“. This plays directly into Huo’s story within the context of the movie of learning that martial arts is not ultimately about victory over others, but victory over one’s self.
Fearless shows Huo early on as a man determined to prove the might of the Huo family fist and its superiority over all other martial arts. However, this ends in tragedy for him and his family, sending Huo to a depressed exile in a distant village. This leads into the second deleted scene, in which a child from his village steals an ox from another. Rather than allow the child to be punished, Huo intervenes and agrees to absorb a beating from a Tony Jaa-level Muay Thai fighter from the village (played by real-life Muay Thai champion Somluck Kamsing). Huo also agrees not to fight back, and will endure the punishment until an incense stick burns out, but he has another strategy for the situation.
Without fighting his opponent directly, Huo instead deflects and redirects the strikes of his enemy. After getting his opponent off balance, he even manages to stop his head from striking the stone ground. Huo and his enemy then bow to each other with the two villages at peace, showing that Huo has become a completely different man.
Once fighting for glory and the thrill of victory, Huo comes to see the real value of the study of martial arts lies in improving one’s mind, body, and spirit to their fullest potential. While he returns home an avid competitor and still quite formidable fighter, he’s freed himself of the mindset he once had that all who stand in his way must be destroyed. A completely new man, Huo’s new mission is to show the world the power of martial arts isn’t in the violence he once relished in, but in the person he and others can build themselves into.
Jet Li has spent a great deal of his career playing historical Chinese heroes like Wong Fei-hung and Fong Sai-yuk. Although Fearless was greatly fictionalized, Li’s portrayal of Huo Yuanjia brought a very pure distillation of the meaning of all forms of martial arts to his last performance as a major Chinese folk hero. The two deleted scenes of the Fearless director’s cut only add to the importance of the message.
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