Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, the acclaimed film from the acclaimed 
director from acclaimed Sony Picture Classics who've been proudly pre-
senting the film's trailer for several months now, has finally opened 
in Triangle theaters and much to the joy of local "art house" owners, 
whose "screens" were packed Friday, Saturday, *and* Sunday.  And, hap-
pily, the Ancient Chinese epic is almost as good as they say.  (Though 
I wouldn't call it the greatest thing since sliced bread...)  A play-
fully serious, two-hour film (with subtitles), TIGER tells of a monk-
ish master fighter (Chow Yun-Fat), the female warrior he's silently 
fond of (Michelle Yeoh), a young, adventure-seeking, arranged-mar-
riage-impending governor's daughter (Zhang Ziyi), and one way-cool, 
four century-old sword.  Plus some chick called the Jade Fox, whose a 
local regular on China's Most Wanted.

The even *more* ever-versatile Ang Lee (RIDE WITH THE DEVIL, SENSE AND 
SENSIBILITY) directs and his oft-stunning, gender-savvy, Quin dynasty-
set film is basically one-half love story, one-half martial-arts mov-
ie.  (e.g. everybody was not only kung-fu fighting, but also kissing, 
crying, and swooning.)  The fight scenes are particularly notable for 
their extensive MATRIX-style "wire effects," which permit the actors 
and their stunt doubles to walk up walls, dance in midair, and leap 
tall buildings in a single bound.  (It's an intriguing device, sure, 
but *far* less exhilarating than the ground-bound stuff.  In fact, the 
close-quarters fighting is so skillfully choreographed and masterfully 
captured that you might as well tape your jaw closed ahead of time.) 

'Tis a talky film, too, though not a stodgy one.  The film is paced at 
a zippy, more-contemporary speed.  There's an ample (if initially un-
expected) amount of zing to both dialogue *and* action, making for a 
nice contrast to the lengthier, Zen-like pauses and protracted, pre-
fight posturing.  The cast is uniformly splendid, with plucky Zhang 
Ziyi as the scene-stealing stand-out.  (Do wish that Chow and Yeoh 
weren't so stroke-victim stone-faced at times.)  And it's funny, too!  
The screenplay is peppered with witty banter, wittier comebacks, and 
even a couple self-referential refs to those nearly ludicrous flying 
effects!  (And, really, you can't watch the Fat One point his finger 
skyward, then begin *rising* skyward, without thinking of Christopher 

And, best of all, the face-to-face, feet-on-terra-firma fight scenes 
get even *better* as they go.  The first show-stopper is a bar-set, 
bunch-against-one, mass-ass-whupping that's as rousing as they come.  
'Specially since it's a "little girl" that kicks 'em.  Then, toward 
the end, in a training room containing weapons, the squaring-off of 
two skilled characters.  I daresay, or even double-daresay, it's as 
exciting a sequence as you'll see in your lifetime.  Sure, go ahead 
and give it Best Picture.  At least it's stunning.  And colorful, ex-
cept for the first third or so.  (Early scenes recall Lee's oppres-
sively gray ICE STORM.)  And, like most others, you'll probably give 
it a break at end, during those flawed final reels and their various 
oh-brothers.  Like some anti-gravity nonsense involving the tops of 
thin-branched trees in broad daylight.  Gimme a break.  (Rated "PG-
13"/120 min.)
Grade: B

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros