Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

It is incredible to think that this is a biopic. Everything about it looks false. By Hollywood standards, it pushes the buttons, including (naturally) a fingers-down-the-throat final scene.

Huo Yuanjia (Jet Li) was a martial artist of awesome repute. At the turn of the century (19th - 20th), China suffered from foreign occupation, not exactly like Iraq, because their protest was internal and spiritual, rather than suicidal and explosive.

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The British, as was their wont in the days of empire, patronised the natives - a polite word for humiliation. Huo regained a modicum of respect for his nation by beating four bells out of anyone stupid enough to challenge him in formal combat.

The film is a series of one-on-one contests, in which Huo is always victorious. These become repetitious and, with the use of slo-mo and wires, are choreographed to within an inch of your patience. As gymnastic ballet, they have an aesthetic appeal. As tense, buttock-clenching drama, they are as fake as a courtesan's kisses.

Huo's early life is sentimentalised. He becomes a champion of martial arts because a) his father was a contender, who bottled at crunch time, and b) he was beaten up by the son of the fighter put paid to his dad's prospects and WAS'T GOING TO LET THIS HAPPEN AGAIN.

Li has become Hong Kong's finest, after Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan. He is a small man whose acting ability would make a sausage roll.

In the tradition of white knight biopics, there has to be a message. Aggression is bad. Fair play is good.

Wow! Surprise me!

"Co-operation, not intimidation" has a preachy mantra about it. We Are The Champions has no meaning unless you learn from mistakes.

Reviewed on: 23 Jun 2006
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Biopic of a famous Chinese martial artist.
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Director: Ronny Yu

Writer: Chris Chow

Starring: Jet Li, Jon T Benn, Collin Chou, Anthony De Longis, Masato Harada, Nathan Jones, Mike Leeder, Shidfo Nakamura, Hee Ching Paw

Year: 2006

Runtime: 104 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: Hong Kong/US


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