Hollywood Confidential's Jeff Well's review of CTHD

Spirit and the Sword
by Jeff Wells

Ang Lee's Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a knockout: vivid, high-flying, exhilarating. Set in China during the Ching dynasty, it's a combination action-fantasy and spiritual parable.

The numerous sword-fight sequences are mind-blowing, inevitably reminiscent of the action scenes in The Matrix in view of the initially startling fact that the combatants devotees of a spiritual discipline called "the Green Dragon" fly around and climb walls like Keanu Reeves and his brethren did in last year's Warner Bros. release. Clearly, Ang Lee has upped the ante in the martial arts genre in ways too numerous and dazzling to recount.

Chow Yun-Fat (Anna and the King), Michelle Yeoh, and Zi Yi Zhang play the leads, although Chow takes a back seat to the women in the action category. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has a "villain" a female outlaw called Jade Fox (Pei Pei Cheng) but the story isn't about whipping the bad guys as much as defeating the impure and unfocused elements within our souls.

The plot is well, I'm not all that sure what the plot is, frankly. I just came from the screening and my head is spinning. It's about an ancient sword, a pair of warrior women (Yeoh, Zhang), a master of the Green Dragon (Chow) with whom Yeoh is secretly in love, a desert outlaw who's in love with Zhang, and a lot of sword fights. Action fans will want to sit out the dialogue scenes and just wait for the whop-bop. There's plenty of it.

I missed the Ang Lee luncheon held today in front of the Carlton hotel. But I ran into the director yesterday just after a luncheon for Brazilian film Me, Us, Them.

Or rather, Falco Ink publicist Jeff Hill ran into him, and I was tagging along. Jeff excitedly told his client that reactions to Crouching Tiger were through the roof, and that he'd lined up two major interviews, one with Los Angeles Times critic "Kenny" Turan, the other with Time's Jeff Ressner.

Ang Lee squinted and asked, "Kenny? Is that the Kenny who hated my film?" "Yes," said Hill, "but he likes this one trust me."