60/60 Review #9: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

Sorry this one is a bit late in the night, but there's been a bit of... difficult surrounding this particular film. This film was one of the ones on my list, believe it or not, that I was most ashamed of not having seen (not the #1, though). I love kung fu in movies, and this is supposed to be one of the best. A modern classic, as they say. The film's title has even become synonymous with jokes about kung fu. So it was much to my surprise that this one was also one of the hardest damn movies for me to get my hands on. I couldn't get it through Netflix because they've been taking too long through the mail recently and I wouldn't have gotten it on time. I went to rent it in-store, but there wasn't a single copy to be found for whatever reason. So I started looking around for an actual copy to buy, and--can you believe it?--there was only 1 copy available, and it was out of order on the shelf, mixed among the fray. Because it was only 10 bucks, and because I do love kung fu, I went ahead and bought it. But was it worth it?

For those not in the know, it's tells the story of two warriors--Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun Fat) and Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh). Li is a master warrior who owns a 400-year-old powerful sword, and he's decided to get out of the warrior life. He gives the sword to Shu Lien to give to Sir Te (Sihung Lung), but it ends up stolen by an old adversary named Jade Fox (Pei-pei Cheng) and her protege, Jen (Ziyi Zhang). Jen also happens to be the daughter of an aristocrat who is forcing her to marry, but she's really in love with a desert bandit named Lo (Chen Chang). However, Jen is stubborn--and very skilled--and her ego gets a little too big for her to handle. So Li and Shu Lien must go after her both to tame/train her and retrieve the sword (and find Jade Fox to defeat her once and for all).

For some reason, this movie was simultaneously disappointing and exactly what I expected. I don't think that's possible, but it's how I feel. I think it's because that, maybe, I hoped it would be better than I expected, but it turned out just the same. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, as I expected some pretty big things out of it. First, I want to begin with the negative.

The story was relatively thin and boring. There wasn't much there except a stolen sword and a couple love stories. Normally this wouldn't be an issue. However, this movie is two hours long, and that's the only plot there is going for it. The two love stories are decent. Li and Shu Lien are two that are in love but can't do anything about it because Shu Lien was originally engaged to Li's best friend who died in war. Then there's the parallel relationship between Jen and Lo. I thought both were endearing relationships, special in their own way, but after a while I felt really bad for Lo because Jen is such an unlikable person.

On the other hand, the action is effing fantastic. Of course, this is to be expected. The choreographer is the same as The Matrix Trilogy and, hell... almost every awesome kung fu action movie ever made. And thankfully, there is a lot of action. It's gorgeous to watch--truly stunning at times. That's really all I can say about it, though, without getting redundant.

I do appreciate the movie's themes, too. Between the parallel love stories and the more obvious "crouching tiger, hidden dragon" theme of hiding your true potential, it was really clever. I didn't hate the story as much as I made it sound I did. I just thought for the time span, there wasn't enough plot to fill it up, stretching it a bit thin at times. But the action scenes more than made up for everything, balancing it all out nicely. So in the end, it gave me exactly what I expected--a thin story yet strong themes and amazing fighting sequences.

A Keanu 'Whoa'


  1. Dude, I'll lovingly chide you about not being able to pay attention for 2.5 - 3 hours...but when you start calling two hour features "long" you're pushing things.

    That said, I am glad to see you liked this one.

  2. I did *not* call 2 hours long. I said that there wasn't enough plot to fill up 2 hours. There's a difference.

    And for the record, I didn't reach for my laptop once during this movie.

  3. Sweet! We're making progress. (I beg to differ, but not adamently enough to push it)

    I think you got pulled into the pseudo-bait-and-switch that helped make this movie such a success. It drew a lot of people in for the martial arts, even though it was in fact this sprawling lovestruck fairy tale.

    The good news is that everytime things start to slow down a little they throw another set piece at you...gotta love that duel between Yeoh and Ziyi in the temple!

  4. I do think there is a difference between a movie that's long and a movie that doesn't have enough plot to fill up its length. It's like the difference (yet again) between GBU and Seven Samurai. Both are over 3 hours long, but while Seven Samurai had the story to fill up the time span, GBU didn't. The span of SS didn't bug me because it worked. So had there been more plot to fill in the 2 hours of CTHD, I would have been perfectly fine. I would even say the same for a regular 90 minute movie. There's gotta be plot to last that time span... otherwise, it shouldn't be a full-length movie.

    Fortunately, like you said, any time this one starts to get too slow, they throw an action piece at you and sweeps you up again.

    Funnily enough, I started drifting to sleep at one point near the middle (not because of the movie, but the time of night)... and I blinked open my eyes long enough to see Ziyi Zhang taking a bath and I was wide awake :P .

  5. I have this sitting on the shelf, still wrapped ... i may join you on the 60/60 for this film!

  6. Nice that Hatter logged in this time and didn't hide behind that Anonymous name again. :P

    Seriously, where the hell is Anon? An R2D2 comments section just isn't the same without Nick being insulted.

    This movie's great. I like the story, it's pretty as hell, and the way that the action is set up makes you believe it's a true story and all of it really happened in just this way. The grace of the movements is the crowning achievement for me; films like Wanted make me groan at their ridiculousness while Crouching Tiger brings out the kid in me, wanting to believe it and do it all myself.

    Funny enough, I saw Hero largely based on my feelings for this, and fucking hated it. It might make for a few nice snapshots, but holy hell, that was a shitty movie.


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