Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
Directed by: Ang Lee
Starring: Chen Chang, Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Ziyi Zhang
Tagline: "A classic of the genre"
Li Mu Bai (Chow Yun-Fat), after many years as a fighter from Wudan Mountain, has decided to retire from the life of being a valiant hero and hands his 'Green Destiny Sword' to his friend Yu Shu Lien (Michelle Yeoh), so that she can give it to Sir Te in Peking for safekeeping.
However, once the sword is in Sir Te's house in Peking, it is stolen by a mysterious figure who seems to be related to Governor Yu, but this cannot be proved without more evidence.
Meanwhile, one of Sir Te's guards discovers that a police officer from the Western Province of China has been tracking a notorious criminal known as Jade Fox and has tracked her to Governor Yu's compound, but he can't move in until he has more proof. He has the chance when he is challenged to a duel at midnight by Jade Fox, during which Li Mu Bai turns up to offer assistance, along with the mysterious figure who stole the sword and is fighting on Jade Fox's side.
The story continues and the Govenor's daughter, Jen (Ziyi Zhang), remembers her past love which leads back to the present as the events of the Green Destiny Sword unfold.
I have seen this movie a few times and am aware that some people think it is overrated. Despite the views expressed by many reviewers, the Wruxia genre did not start with this film, it is merely a reflection of it.
Even though you could argue that this movie is not really a Hong Kong movie, it is a hard film to place. It was produced with the backing of a major Hollywood studio, has major Hong Kong stars and was filmed in Taiwan.
While the wire work and stunts amazed new western audiences, fairly similar sequences have been used for decades in the genre. It is great to see them some well realised here though.
This movie can ultimately be viewed in two ways, on its own as a love story with Kung Fu elements or as an introduction to the wider world of martial arts cinema. If you enjoy this movie, then I highly recommend tracking down some of the re-releases of the Shaw Brothers 1970's back catalogue.