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Hero (Ying xiong) - Blu-ray DVD / action adventure DVD / international and foreign language DVD review
HERO (Ying xiong) Rated PG-13 by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 stars
Featuring: Jet Li, Tony Leung Chiu Wai, Maggie Cheung, Ziyi Zhang, Daoming Chen, Donnie Yen
Director: Yimou Zhang Studio: Miramax
DVD release: 15 September 2009 Runtime: 99 min.
(2 discs)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Special Edition, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 - English; Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround - French, Spanish, Original Mandarin), Subtitles (English, English SDH, French, Spanish), Close-up of a Fight Scene, Inside the Action: A Conversation with Quentin Tarantino & Jet Li, Hero Defined, Storyboards, Soundtrack Spot

A nameless orphaned man approaches the King of Qin (Daoming Chen), claiming to have killed the three assassins most feared by the king - Broken Sword (Tony Leung Chiu Wai), Flying Snow (Maggie Cheung), and Sky (Donnie Yen). For this, Nameless (Jet Li) is allowed to approach to within ten paces of the King. The King shares his riches and drink with Nameless, yearning to know how this lone warrior was able to accomplish what the king and his vast armies were unable to.

Nameless relates the stories of his successes, but the king is cunning. He senses some deception in Nameless's tales. Could Nameless's achievements be fabricated to gain access to the king? The king tells his own version of the story to Nameless.

Director Zhang Yimou assembled an amazing visual feast in Hero, his first martial arts film. Major color themes dominate the screen, a different color for each perspective of a story (there must be a reason for each color - I haven't discovered it yet, although New York Times writer Robert Mackey has a notion. The martial arts action is beautiful, graceful and classic. The choreography relies heavily on wire work, which some purists may complain is too artificial or cheating, but I find it lends well to the mythological telling of this tale. The first fight scene between Nameless and Sky occurs at an outdoor gaming parlor in the rain. A musician plays a stringed instrument as the warriors work out the battle in their heads and the camera switches between the pieces of the battle, the rain, and the musician's playing.

Another battle pits Moon (Zhang Ziyi) against Flying Snow in a grove of oak trees in the fall. The extra features tell us that Yimou waited until the leaves were just the right shade of orange before filming the scenes. Many laborers were employed to sort through the leaves to clean them and discard any which were not the right color. This attention to detail exists throughout the film, making every shot, every frame, a piece of art.

I've seen Hero many times and enjoyed every viewing. What's surprising is that Miramax hasn't released it on Blu-ray before now; the gorgeous picture, and amazing sound make it an instant candidate. A digital copy of the film is included, along with a new featurette: "Close-up of a Fight Scene," which shows some behind-the-scenes footage on several of Hero's legendary martial arts battles.

Hero is also newly available in a box set with three other contemporary martial arts on Blu-ray: The Legend of Drunken Master, Zatoichi, and Iron Monkey (the edition of Hero in The Ultimate Force of Four box set does not include the bonus digital copy).
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reviewed by Eric Renshaw
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