'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon': THR's 2000 Review

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'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000)
A sweeping romantic epic with a strong feminist backbone, the thoroughly entertaining 'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' also happens to boast a generous offering of seriously kick-ass action sequences that make 'The Matrix' seem downright quaint by comparison.

On Dec. 8, 2000, Sony Pictures Classics unveiled Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in theaters, where it would eventually gross $213 million globally. It went on to be nominated for 10 Oscars at the 73rd Academy Awards, picking up four honors including best foreign language film. The Hollywood Reporter's original review, from its Cannes debut, is below.

For his first Chinese-language assignment since 1994's Eat Drink Man Woman, Ang Lee tries a little martial arts on for size — with jaw-droppingly exhilarating results.

A sweeping romantic epic with a strong feminist backbone, the thoroughly entertaining Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also happens to boast a generous offering of seriously kick-ass action sequences that make The Matrix seem downright quaint by comparison.

With a cast headed by genre superstars Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh, the film is poised to conquer virtually every territory it plays in, although it could probably stand a slight trimming for North American consumption.

Screened out of competition (luckily for the others), this impressive effort from Sony Pictures Entertainment's fledgling Asian production division is set in the early 19th century, during the last great years of the mighty Qing dynasty.

Deciding to hang up his trusty sword — the mythical Green Destiny — legendary warrior Li Mu Bai (Yun-Fat) entrusts the ancient weapon to Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh), his equally skilled female partner in crime-fighting. They also share a undeclared love for each other.

It is agreed that she'll deliver the sword as a gift to Sir Te, a revered Beijing elder, and it is there she encounters the strong willed [Jen, Zhang Ziyi], a young woman who is about to be married off but envies Yu's independence.

When Green Destiny is stolen, Yu's detective work leads her to none other than the young girl, who proves to be an enormously skilled fighter trained in the ways of combat by the notorious but evasive Jade Fox.

The scenario allows for some astoundingly choreographed (courtesy of Matrix man Yuen Wo Ping) face-offs between the two women that simply have to be seen to be believed.

Incorporating some digital know-how from Cine Asia and Manex Visual Effects, Lee has his warriors taking their gravity-defying battles along walls, across rooftops or from treetop to treetop, making like Ninja Peter Pans.

And in between the well-placed action, there's a simple, moving poetry both in cinematographer Peter Pau's lush visuals and in the words, with writers James Schamus, Wang Hui Ling and Tsai Kuo Jung working from Wang Du Lu's novel of the same name.

Lee's cast is nimbly up to both the action and the acting, with Yeoh and Yun-Fat given the kind of opportunity to emote that hasn't been afforded them in their American films.

As the highly defiant [Jen, Zhang Ziyi] (The Road Home) is assured a rewarding future in front of the cameras. Her potent combination of impassioned defiance and youthful innocence help give Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon both its quiet beauty and its considerable firepower. — Michael Rechtshaffen, originally published on May 17, 2000