Emotion in Motion

Character is action," wrote henry James, and though the Master was probably not referring to chop-socky kung fu movie stars, the dictum definitely fits Jet Li. An actual martial-arts champion, the Beijing-born Li has made a career of acting with his feet and his fists. That's fortunate for him, because when he's standing still or forced to speak, Li can be as stolid as a stone—especially in his Hollywood films. (His Romeo Must Die, costarring the late hip-hop singer Aaliyah, featured quite possibly the most awkward stabs at romance ever witnessed outside a middle-school dance.) But put Li on the offensive,...

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