Site Features
- Asian Film Awards
- Site Recommendations

- Reader Poll Results

- The Sponsor Page
- The FAQ Page
support this site by shopping at
Click to visit
Asian Blu-ray discs at
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
|     review    |     notes     |     awards     |     availability     |
"I hated Gladiator!"

Michelle Yeoh fights for international recognition in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.
  Chinese: 臥虎藏龍
Year: 2000  
Director: Ang Lee  
Producer: Ang Lee, James Schamus, David Linde, Hsu Li-Kong, Bill Kong, Zhen Quan-Gang, Dong Ping, Philip Lee, Chui Po-Chu
Action: Yuen Woo-Ping
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Michelle Yeoh, Zhang Ziyi, Chang Chen, Sihung Lung, Cheng Pei-Pei
The Skinny: After being nominated for ten Academy Awards and named "Best Picture of the Year" by over 100 critics nationwide, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon can be safely awarded the title of "film classic."
Review by

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is more than just a movie; it's a phenomenon. Along with The Matrix, its title will forever be used as a comparative term for film blurbs around the world ("It's a cross between."). Not only that, but the Ang Lee film has had a tremendous impact on the Asian movies that are financed and distributed to American audiences, whether it be theatrically (Iron Monkey anyone?) or on DVD (just check the shelves at Borders and Best Buy for proof). When I watched Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - a Mandarin language film with (gasp!) subtitles - in a darkened Oklahoma cineplex, I knew something special was happening. Only a few years before, I had been eagerly scavenging mail-order catalogs buying those expensive VHS two-tape sets of my favorite Hong Kong flicks, reveling in the chance to see them once more in the comfort of my own home. And then Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon - in all its widescreen glory - hit movie theaters nationwide. I was in martial arts heaven.

Based on the book by Wang Du-Lu, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the epic tale of two couples as they come to grips with the realities of living in the martial world. On the older side of the spectrum, we have Li Mu-Bai (Chow Yun-Fat) and Yu Shu-Lien (Michelle Yeoh), two adept martial artists whose plans for retirement are interrupted by the theft of Li's prize possession: the Green Destiny sword. The other couple in this foursome includes Jen Yu (Zhang Ziyi), a beautiful, well-to-do noble who is more than she seems, and Lo (Chang Chan) the swarthy bandit with a heart of gold known to the masses as Dark Cloud. While Mu-Bai and Shu-Lien have grown weary of the trappings of the Jiang Hu underworld, Jen thirsts for it, aligning herself with Jade Fox (Cheng Pei-Pei), a vicious kung fu mistress and killer of Mu-Bai's Wudan master. The movie centers on the question of whether the talented Jen will remain a pawn of the evil Jade Fox or become a faithful disciple of the stoic Li Mu-Bai. In the end, the impetuous Jen follows her own will…with tragic results.

With all the hype surrounding Crouching Tiger, it's no wonder that there has been a bit of a backlash. Some say that it's too slow, there's too much flying, it's got a downbeat ending, etc. True, some might consider the first act a bit plodding, but its lethargy has a purpose. The slow opening is an excellent setup for the liberating, martial arts explosion that occurs when Shu-Lien and Jen do battle in a highflying night fight that was so exhilarating that audience members at Cannes erupted into cheers at the sequence's conclusion.

As for the "flying" debate, I found the wirework to be so exquisitely filmed that it made most Hong Kong wuxia flicks look amateurish by comparison. Sure, with all that flying, there's no reason for these folks to ride around on horses, but try not to think too much about it. And, as far as the ending is concerned, the conclusion is consistent with the thematic motifs of the film. Through the relationship between Li Mu-Bai and Shu-Lien, the film points out the folly of clinging to the customs of the past. Mu-Bai and Shu-Lien say that they don't act on their impulses as a tribute to the memory of a departed friend, but the truth is that the two are just too scared to make good on their feelings. As one character remarks, "When it comes to emotions, even great heroes can be idiots." Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon concludes with a beautiful shot of Zhang Ziyi plunging into the great unknown in a gesture that is both an atonement for her sins and, quite possibly, a resurrection. Beautiful and compelling to the very last, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is nothing less than a cinematic masterpiece. (Calvin McMillin 2002)


Jet Li was offered the part of Li Mu-Bai, but he declined after accepting the starring role in Romeo Must Die. Though Chow Yun-Fat is expected to return for the prequel, Li is rumored to be in the running for the role of Li Mu-Bai as well. For the record, Jet Li is about eight years younger than Chow Yun-Fat.
Similarly, Shu Qi and Takeshi Kaneshiro were offered the parts eventually given to Zhang Ziyi and Chang Chen. Reportedly, Shu Qi's manager Manfred Wong (of Young and Dangerous fame) turned down the role of Jen Yu because Shu Qi had to film a commercial in Japan. Nobody can recall what he or Takeshi Kaneshiro were smoking.

20th Annual Hong Kong Film Awards
Winner - Best Picture
Winner - Best Director (Ang Lee)
Winner - Best Supporting Actress (Cheng Pei-Pei)
• Winner - Best Cinematography (Peter Pau)
Winner - Best Action Design (Yuen Woo-Ping)
Winner - Best Original Film Score (Tan Dun)
Winner - Best Song ("Moonlight Lover", performed by Coco Lee)
Winner - Best Sound Effects (Eugene Gearty)
Nomination - Best Actor (Chow Yun-Fat)
Nomination - Best Actress (Michelle Yeoh)
Nomination - Best Actress (Zhang Ziyi)
Nomination - Best Supporting Actor (Chang Chen)
Nomination - Best Screenplay (Wang Hui-Ling, James Schamus, Tsai Kuo-Jing)
Nomination - Best Editing (Tim Squyres)
Nomination - Best Art Direction (Timmy Yip)
Nomination - Best Costume Design (Timmy Yip)
2000 Academy Awards
Winner - Best Foreign Language Film
Winner - Best Cinematography (Peter Pau)
Winner - Best Art Direction (Timmy Yip)
Winner - Best Original Score (Tan Dun)
2000 Golden Globe Awards
Winner - Best Foreign Language Film
Winner - Best Director (Ang Lee)
2000 Golden Horse Awards
Winner - Best Picture
2000 Toronto Film Critics' Award
Winner - Best Picture
2000 Los Angeles Film Critics' Award
Winner - Best Picture

Availability: DVD (USA)
Region 1 NTSC
Columbia Tri-Star Home Video
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Mandarin, English, and French Language Tracks
English and French Subtitles
Ang Lee and James Schamus Commentary
Making-Of Special, Conversation with Michelle Yeoh, Photo Montage, Trailers
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc

image courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Video

back to top Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen