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Jet Li is a champion martial artist and Chinese film actor. He starred in the Once Upon a Time in China film series and in the critically-praised, international hit Hero.
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That same year, Li starred in the convoluted science fiction tale, The One. He played the two main characters, an unsuspecting California sheriff and a ruthless killer who travels through parallel worlds to eliminate the other versions of himself. The film was panned by critics for its confusing plot and weak acting. Next, he worked with director Yimou Zhang on the Chinese historical drama Hero, in which Li played a warrior in 3rd century China. The movie was released in China in 2002,
and earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Film. He then reunited with DMX for 2003's crime thriller Cradle 2 the Grave, which received poor reviews and a lukewarm response from movie-goers.
The following year, Jet Li was on vacation in the Maldives when a tsunami hit. It was widely reported that he had died during the disaster. However, he only suffered a minor foot injury while guiding his 4-year-old daughter to safety.
Safe and back on the big screen, Li next starred in Unleashed (2005). He played a man who was a captive killing machine for a crime family. The character was trained to become violent after his collar was removed. To prepare for the role, Li worked with an acting coach. "We went to see wild dogs at the pound [to see] when they're hungry, when they're angry ... I spent a few days on location at night, with just bread and water, so I could feel it," Li explained to Muscle & Fitness magazine. The film performed well at the box office, opening at No. 3 in theaters.
In his next film, Fearless (2006), Li starred as the famed Chinese martial arts master Huo Yuanjia. The film tells the true story of Yuanjia's near-death experience, the tragic loss of his family, and his triumphant victory over his foreign opponents in a martial arts competition. Critic Leonard Maltin called it "emotionally charged and visually striking." Fans also enjoyed the film, helping it reach No. 2 at the box office in its opening weekend.
Li then played Rogue, a lethal assassin, in War (2007). In the film, Li plays a character who is pursued by the partner of an FBI agent he murdered. Critics panned the film, and it earned only $22 million at the box office. The same year, Li starred in the Chinese film The Warlords directed by Peter Chan.
In The Forbidden Kingdom (2008), Li had the opportunity work with another leading martial arts star, Jackie Chan. The film, however, proved to be a disappointment. As San Francisco Chronicle critic Peter Hartlaub wrote: "The movie also adequately answers the question why Chan and Li haven't yet done a movie together in their collective 55-year careers: Chan is a much better actor. As for the fighting, and the movie, it's pretty much a draw."
Li had better luck with the Hollywood action sequel The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008). In this latest installment in The Mummy franchise, Li played a brutal Chinese emperor, buried with 10,000 terra cotta soldiers, who is awoken from his eternal slumbers by a young adventurer (Luke Ford). Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello play the adventurer's parents who help him battle the evil emperor.
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