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For the Taylor Swift's album, see Fearless .
Fearless, known in Chinese as Huo Yuanjia ( ) and Jet Li's Fearless in the United Kingdommarker and the United Statesmarker, is a 2006 Chinese martial arts film directed by Ronny Yu and starring Jet Li. It is loosely based on the life of Huo Yuanjia, a famous Chinese martial artist who challenged foreign fighters in highly publicised events, restoring pride and nationalism to Chinamarker at a time when Western Imperialism and Japanesemarker manipulation were eroding the country during the last few years before the birth of the Republic of Chinamarker. Jet Li stated in an interview that this film is his last wushu martial arts epic, a point also made in the movie's television promotions and other publicity. Fearless was released on June 23, 2006 in the United Kingdommarker, and on September 22, 2006 in the United Statesmarker.


The film starts with Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) fighting three Westerners: a Britishmarker boxer, a Prussian lancer and a Spanishmarker fencer. Huo defeats all the three of them and has a flashback before the next fight with Anno Tanaka (Nakamura Shidō II) from Japanmarker.

Huo watches his father Huo Endi (Collin Chou) teaching students martial arts and wants to participate, but his father was concerned about his asthmatic son and refuses to allow him to practise martial arts. Huo Yuanjia then sees his father in a Leitai match with another martial artist named Zhao, who won the match dishonorably by retaliating when Huo Endi showed mercy on the final blow. Huo felt humiliated by his father's defeat and vowed to regain his family's honour and pride. He practiced martial arts secretly behind his father's back. As the years passed, Huo Yuanjia defeated several opponents in Leitai matches and became one of the most famous martial artists in Tianjinmarker. However, as he became increasingly successful and popular, he also became more arrogant and ruthless towards his opponents. His late father, however, advocated the practice of showing mercy and not doing any serious physical harm to opponents.

Huo challenges Master Chin.

When a rival martial arts master named Qin Lei (Master Chin in the US version) injures one of Huo's followers, Huo Yuanjia felt insulted and he confronts Qin at the latter's birthday party. The confrontation escalates into a fight between Huo and Qin, in which Huo emerges as the victor by killing Qin with a fatal blow to the chest. However, Qin's godson sought vengeance on Huo and killed Huo's mother and daughter (Jade in the US version) in revenge. Guided by fury, Huo goes to Qin's house and Qin's godson admits to the murders before committing suicide. Later, Huo learns that it was his follower who had provoked Qin earlier which resulted in his beating from Qin.

Overwhelmed with grief and shame, Huo flees Tianjin and wanders aimlessly for many miles. A disheveled, greying wanderer, he nearly drowns in a river, but is saved by Granny Sun (Grandma in the US version) and her blind granddaughter, Yueci (Moon in the US version). They bring him back to their village and guided by their simple acts of kindness, Huo begins to learn the value of kindness and mercy.

In 1907, Huo Yuanjia returns to Tianjin and sees the various changes that have taken place in his absence. He apologises to the family of Master Qin and reconciles with his businessman friend Nong Jinsun, whom he offended earlier. He challenges the Americanmarker wrestler, Hercules O'Brien (Nathan Jones), who had been making headlines by defeating Chinese martial artists and calling the Chinese "Weak men of the East", and defeats O'Brien. He saves O'Brien from being impaled by some nails in the floor that had come loose during the fight and wins the appreciation of O'Brien, who named Yuanjia the victor. Huo Yuanjia's fame begins to spread with successive challenges with other foreign fighters. In 1909, with funding from Nong Jinsun, he founded Jing Wu Men, a martial arts school in Shanghai.

The members of the foreign Chambers of Commerce fear that Huo Yuanjia's victories might fan anti-foreign sentiments in the Chinese people and thus become a disadvantage to them. They proposed a match between Huo Yuanjia and four foreign champions. Huo Yuanjia took up the challenge although it was an unfair one. Before the matches, Huo Yuanjia met the Japanese champion Tanaka for tea and struck up a friendship with him.

Back to September 14, 1910, Huo Yuanjia faces Tanaka in a titanic battle. In the first round, they fight with their weapons of choice. Huo uses a three section staff and Tanaka uses a katana. The first round was a draw. Before the next round, Huo Yuanjia drinks from a teacup containing poison, which had replaced his original teacup. In the second round involving unarmed combat, Huo Yuanjia suddenly has difficulty in breathing and loses his strength. He collapses and starts coughing blood, dying from arsenic poisoning. Tanaka and Huo's supporters immediately demand that the match be halted and postponed, but Huo replies that he wants it to continue since he is going to die soon. Huo is defeated by Tanaka but he manages to deliver a blow to Tanaka's chest, similar to the one he used on Master Qin. Huo could have killed Tanaka with that blow but he refrained from doing so and collapsed.

Tanaka declares Huo Yuanjia the victor moments before Huo's death and the crowd cheered. When the furious Japanese diplomat (also Tanaka's manager, as well as the poisoner of Huo's tea) confronts Tanaka, Tanaka replies furiously and chided the diplomat as being the real disgrace to Japan for attempting to win the match disgracefully. In the final scene, Huo Yuanjia is seen practicing martial arts with Yueci watching from a distance. The two meet each other, presumably for the first time ever.



Alternate versions

The film was originally approximately 140 minutes long, but to fit market demand, it was cut to 105 minutes, and scenes by Michelle Yeoh and a fight between Jet Li and a Thai boxer, portrayed by Somluck Kamsing, were removed. A special release of the film in Thailandmarker in March 2006 reinserted the scenes with Somluck (but not Michelle Yeoh), making its new running time approximately 110 minutes. In January 2007, Ronny Yu's original 140 minute Director's Cut was given an official DVD release in Hong Kong, featuring the full Michelle Yeoh sub plot as well as the fight with Somluck Kamsing.

Within the Somluck Kamsing scene, there are two different endings. In the Director's Cut, the fight ends after Huo Yuanjia stops the Thai boxer from falling head first. In an alternate scene, the Thai boxer continues to fight after this and Huo Yuanjia appears to kill him with the Exterminating Blow, only to see that he had resisted, in which the boxer realizes this and ends the fight.

Director's Cut

Universal released the full 141 minute Director's Cut on DVD in North America in July 2008. The released DVD, however, contained 2 discs and has been reported to errantly contain both the existing U.S. Theatrical version and the existing Unrated version and not the actual Director's Cut on either of the discs. However, many people were able to get replacement copies that had the director's cut after sending a complaint on their website.

On December 2008, Universal released the Blu Ray version of the movie, which contains the three versions (Theatrical, Unrated, and Director's cut) in a single disc.

There are many differences between the theatrical and director's cut.

  • Instead of the film opening with the fighting competition in Shanghai, 1910, the film opens with Michelle Yeoh explaining to International Olympic Committeemarker why Wushu should be an Olympic sport. She then proceeds to tell the story of Huo Yuanjia, the man who helped Wushu become a major sport.
  • Before we see Yuanjia as a child, a scene of him is shown seeking passage on a boat, with the boatman taking a small jade jewel out of a sack as payment from Yuanjia (shown later to be the gift that Huo's daughter intended to give him when he wins his fight). This will also later be shown to be a scene of Huo Yuanjia wandering in despair.
  • Before Yuanjia and his friend, Jinsun, as children, go to see Huo's father fight, there a scene of Yuanjia showing Jinsun's his father's certificates from winning fights.
  • There are scenes of Jinsun, as a child, copying the Huo Wushu manual for Yuanjia so he can learn.
  • A scene was added of Yuanjia, as a child, getting his revenge and defeating the son of the Zhao Wushu master.
  • After Yuanjia's minor confrontation in the streets with Master Chin, a scene is added of Yuanjia beating his disciples for not working hard enough.
  • An extra scene of Yuanjia's family, waiting for him to come home after his competition.
  • The montage of Yuanjia wandering in despair is longer, as well as his time with the villagers.
  • A scene was added of a young boy from the village, Gui, getting beaten by members of another neighboring village, for stealing an ox (after his died). The villagers of Yuanjia's village protest to let him go, and when the man of the other village refuses, Yuanjia offers to take Gui's punishment instead. He has to let a Thai boxer beat him until an incense stick burns out. Yuanjia allows the Thai boxer to beat him until members of his village protest. Yuanjia defends himself from the Thai boxer, but does not fight back. When the Thai Boxer is about to hit his head on the ground, Yuanjia saves him, and the Thai boxer bows in respect, and agrees to let Gui and the other villagers go.
  • In his time with the villagers, Yuanjia has a talk with two village boys about Wushu, and makes them explain why they want to learn it.
  • When Yuanjia returns home, the black and white footage of battle shown at the beginning of the theatrical version is now shown right before Yuanjia's return to Tianjin, with subtitles explaining that after the Qing dynasty, united foreign armies invaded China, and made Tianjin a semi-colony. Also added was a scene of Yuan Jia giving the Zhao Wushu master he defeated earlier in the beginning of the film his copy of the Huo Wushu manual. He later comes to Huo Yuanjia's Wushu school and joins.
  • After the main credits, Miss Yang (Michelle Yeoh's character) is walking away from the meeting, with a reporter asking her if she thinks she will succeed. Miss Yang responds saying that she had done her best, and that is what's important. When the reporter asks, "Is it enough?", Miss Yang smiles and walks away.
  • Various scenes in the film are now given their time and place in subtitles. Also subtitled are the names of the 3 fighters Yuanjia fights before Tanaka in Shanghai, as well as their fighting styles.

Other names

  • Some promotions, including television and AMC Theatres billed the film as Jet Li's Fearless.
  • The film is also known as Spirit in Japan.
  • The film is also known as Huo Yuan Jia.

Connections with other films

Comparisons can be drawn between this film and one of Jet Li's earlier films, Fist of Legend. The character of Huo Yuanjia is the master of Jet Li's character in Fist of Legend, Chen Zhen; in the earlier movie, Chen Zhen returns to China from Japan to avenge the murder of Huo Yuanjia, which is depicted in Fearless. The films also explore similar thematic material: in Fearless, Huo Yuanjia eventually learns that the true purpose of martial arts is self-improvement and self-development, while combat with others is useful only as a means of testing one's progress, and he teaches this lesson to his Japanese opponent. In Fist of Legend, Chen Zhen is told the same lesson by his own samurai opponent, who claims that martial arts are a means of improving one's physical health, but if one wants to kill a man, then the best way is to use a gun.

In an earlier film Fist of Fury (formerly known as The Chinese Connection), Bruce Lee portrayed Huo Yuanjia's student Chen Zhen, who seeks revenge for his poisoning. This film was the archetype of Fist of Legend.

Nakamura Shido (Anno Tanaka) appears as an extra on Fist of Legend. Near the beginning of the movie, after Chen Zhen and Funakochi Fumio leave the school, they walk down a crowded street behind a line of soldiers. The last soldier seen in that line is a very young Nakamura Shido.

The 1982 Hong Kong film Legend of a Fighter is also based on the life of Huo Yuanjia.

The weapon fight between Jet Li's Huo Yuanjia, armed with a three-section staff, and Nakamura Shido's Anno Tanaka, armed with a katana, is similar to the final showdown in Fist Of Fury, where Bruce Lee counters a katana-wielding Riki Hashimoto with a nunchaku.



In February 2006, Huo Zizheng, a great grandson of Huo Yuanjia, demanded an apology for the inaccuracy portrayed in Fearless. In the film, Huo Yuanjia did not have any offspring as his only child was killed. Huo in real life has 7 grandsons and 11 great grandsons. No apology was offered, and the complaint came to nothing. This was because Huo Zizheng was advised that a court case was unlikely to succeed due to the producers not stating that the film was intended to be historically accurate.

Box office

Fearless opened in Hong Kong on January 26, 2006. The film played to blockbuster business, eventually grossed an exceptional $30,201,600 HKD by the end of its run.

On September 22, 2006, Fearless was released in 1,806 North American cinemas under the title Jet Li's Fearless. In its opening weekend, it placed 2nd at the box office to the sequel to Jackass, grossing $10,590,244 USD ($5,863 per screen). It was Jet Li's seventh film in a row to open to over $10 million. The film went on to gross $24,633,730 USD by the end of its North American run - making it the sixth highest grossing non-English language foreign film in the United States to date - and its total worldwide gross is $67,129,516 USD.


Taiwanese Asian pop superstar and actor Jay Chou wrote and sang the theme song to this movie, also named "Huo Yuanjia". In the song Jay Chou sings in a falsetto voice for a few segments. Although the song became a huge hit on Chinese download charts, it was heavily criticized for its repetitiveness and the inaudible nature of its lyrics.The film's soundtrack was composed by Shigeru Umebayashi.


  1. Huo Yuan Jia (2006)
  2. "Huo's descendants seeks apology from Jet Li", Xinhua

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