Sunday, 13 July 2008

Born to Defend (1986)

After surviving WWII, Jet (Jet Li) and the other soldiers in his unit return home only to be pushed around and spat upon while the US navy is celebrated as "the real heroes" of the war.
The country is in ruins and money is the only power recognised - children try to sell themselves as slaves, women turn to prostitution, men try to get by pulling rickshaws, while everyone in the US navy is just having a good time bullying and abusing the local population.

Those nasty US soldiers block Jet's way when he's bringing a woman who is in labour to hospital.

If you don't like the US navy and do like excessive violence and superhuman beings that are able to survive getting thrashed in a way that would kill a normal human being (regardless of how skilled he/she is in martial arts) many times over, this is your bet. (It's meant to be a somewhat realistic and serious story, not a historical or humourous kung fu fantasy, otherwise I wouldn't be complaining.)
Also, if you wonder what Jet Li looks like without his shirt on, this is also for you ... ;o) (Yeah, that's the main reason why I watched the film, apart from my hopes that I might get to see some skillful boxing - but the latter hopes were not quite fulfilled.)

It's a very basic and cliché martial arts movie story, that comes down to the goodhearted protagonist being provoked to the point where he can't take it anymore and has to kill all the bad guys in imaginative ways. It's not a *terribly* bad film (for its genre), but it could have been, you know ... better.

Martial arts:
Superhuman beings are being thrashed in a really ugly way and survive thousands of deaths. Well, the bad guys get killed in the end, of course. Some good guys, too, so Jet will have a somewhat plausible reason to thrash and be thrashed.

A major element in the plot is how Jet's uncle first denies his daughter because of the 'shame' she has brought upon him by working as a prostitute. But in the end, Jet, who has fallen in love with her, helps him accept her and see that no matter what she does, she's still his daughter. This is one of the more sympathetic sides to this film.

Hunk factor:
As mentioned, Jet Li spends a lot of his screen time running around without his shirt. This is actually quite unusual - in most films he always keeps his clothes on. In a reply to a fan letter he explains this, on one hand, with the fact that he's so short, and doesn't think his muscles look all that good (awwww, the humbleness!), and, on the other hand, with the fact that the power in martial arts comes from the inside, not from the appearance, so wearing clothes or not is irrelevant. (But that's not really an excuse to never take off your shirt, is it ...?)