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Overall Rating
3.77

Awesome35.4%
Worth A Look: 31.86%
Average: 12.39%
Pretty Bad: 15.04%
Total Crap: 5.31%

10 reviews, 53 user ratings


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House of Flying Daggers
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by EricDSnider

"How come Chinese people can fly and I can't?"
5 stars

When last we saw the great Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou, he was undergoing a bit of a mid-career renaissance, writing and directing the awe-inspiring martial arts film "Hero" after previously focusing on poignant dramas. He continues on that path with "House of Flying Daggers," yet he goes back to earlier films like "Not One Less" and "The Road Home," too, as "Flying Daggers" is, at its heart, an emotional story about love and betrayal. In many ways, it is Yimou's most accomplished and beautiful film.

It takes place in the 9th century A.D., in an area where the local police grapple frequently with the Flying Daggers, a secret group of vigilantes and guerrilla warriors who go about righting wrongs and fighting injustice and bringing down The Man. There is much call for the Flying Daggers, as the government is corrupt and heartless -- traits that make it even less sympathetic toward underground organizations like the Flying Daggers.

Two local policemen, Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau), get word that a member of the Flying Daggers has begun working as a courtesan at the local "entertainment house," as it is called, so Jin goes undercover. He hopes to meet her, gain her trust, and follow her back to the Flying Daggers' secret headquarters.

To an extent, the plan succeeds. The woman, Mei (Ziyi Zhang), who is beautiful, an expert fighter, oh, and blind since birth, is indeed a Flying Dagger. The government believes she is the daughter of the Daggers' former leader, whom the government assassinated (which makes her especially dangerous now, should she encounter any government agents).

Mei and Jin almost immediately begin to fall in love, apparently for real, despite Jin's ulterior motives. The romance complicates Jin's attitude toward the operation, and so do Mei's almost-supernatural instincts: She often detects Jin's fellow officers lurking in the foliage as they journey to Flying Dagger headquarters, which means she and Jin have to fight them, Jin making sure to defeat but not kill his cohorts. When the federal government, apathetic toward local law enforcement officers, takes over the pursuit of Mei and the Flying Daggers, Jin's company can no longer guarantee his safety.

As a blend of war and love, the film is not just a series of battle sequences, the way "Hero" was. When the fights do come, however, Zimou directs them with as much precision and artistry as in that earlier film. One fight takes place in a bamboo forest, with many of the maneuvers occurring at the tops of the trees, gravity boldly and beautifully defied. Even Mei's dancing as a courtesan earns a skillful cinematographic treatment. Zimou seems to believe that there is no such thing as an unimportant shot, and that if something is going to appear in his film, it is going to be photographed with style and meaning.

The cinematographer is named Xiaoding Zhao, and he has no prior credits listed on the Internet Movie Database. I wonder if this can be a mistake. His work in "Flying Daggers" is exquisite, often breathtaking, far more so than one would expect for someone with no previous feature-film experience.

The film begins with an autumnal feel, all gray skies and earth tones, and not the usual spring colors associated with a budding romance. The wistfulness suggests Mei and Jin are not destined for happiness together, a feeling borne out by the movie's wintry finale. In the middle, we gradually move to the lush green colors of the bamboo forest and the Flying Daggers' uniforms. Some of these visuals are stunning, absolutely stunning. It is not often that a movie can inspire discussion based solely on its use of color, but there you go.

The final battle, between Mei, Jin and a third character, is marked by its intentional lack of gracefulness. It is too personal now; lovers have been stabbed in the back and in the heart -- in some cases literally, I might add -- and the fighting takes on a brutal, bloody quality. The fighters do not fly anymore. They remain earthbound, scratching, crying and bleeding in a most non-balletic fashion. Zimou is at his most insightful here, no longer alternating between scenes of combat and scenes of love, but combining them into one stirring finale.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=10363&reviewer=247
originally posted: 01/02/05 19:18:28
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Toronto Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Toronto Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 New York Film Festival. For more in the 2004 New York Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2004 Leeds Film Festival. For more in the 2004 Leeds Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival. For more in the 2005 Palm Springs Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

11/25/13 Vanessa C. Romeo and Juliet type of story but still great. 5 stars
7/23/08 Kala my own fault for watching a dub but...the version I watched was awful 1 stars
3/20/07 Stanley Thai One of the best films EVER. 5 stars
1/31/07 William Boyle Young lovers come to a sticky end. Silly at times but beautiful, and Zhang Ziyi is superb. 4 stars
7/02/06 Ry crappy story.. Hero much better 2 stars
5/12/06 mr.seraph beautiful.... no other word can describe it... 5 stars
9/11/05 Al. splendid 4 stars
9/02/05 Tom Burns Amazing! 5 stars
8/28/05 JFK great photography, and a great story 5 stars
8/16/05 Richie Cataulin Beautifully shot. Colors are abnomally beefed up and look like a living watercolor. 4 stars
6/07/05 CM Contrived and generic. That drum- dance scene was trite 2 stars
5/20/05 ad ! 5 stars
4/29/05 Quigley i was boerd at the lovey-dovey plot, but the action was good 3 stars
3/19/05 Green Grenlim Visually stunning, but not as good as Crouching tiger 4 stars
3/18/05 Ashley Corepning Visually stunning, but conceptually preposterous in every way. 2 stars
3/15/05 Zach Loved it 5 stars
2/27/05 ;-) Their terrible behind the wheel but great at makin films, go figure! 4 stars
2/18/05 matthew smith unlike some of you, House of flying daggers is a staggering film to watch, stunning. 5 stars
2/10/05 David Bennett Beautiful scenery, dance, costumes, fight scenes 4 stars
2/09/05 jeff try to watch it when ur high!!! just as good as hero if not better. 5 stars
2/05/05 axe like a reader's digest condensed version of an epic wrapped up hastily with extra schmalz 3 stars
2/01/05 Andrea Haresign great scenery, fight scenes are repetitive 3 stars
1/31/05 williamwar I liked this movie alot, but yes it was melodramatic. Best seen on the Big Screen!!! 5 stars
1/29/05 govenar Good scenery but silly plot. 3 stars
1/29/05 Richard Brandt As beautiful as "Hero" and twice as inscrutable 4 stars
1/27/05 ZF No emotional resonance whatsoever. Action fairly sloppy. 2 stars
1/24/05 BrianWilly Breathtaking. Renews my faith in my home country. 5 stars
1/18/05 malcolm it doesn't get any more melodramatic than this. zhang ziyi is as gorgeous as ever. 3 stars
1/16/05 Charlene Javier Beautiful but empty. 3 stars
1/13/05 Paul D Fantastic - try and catch this movie on the big screen 5 stars
1/03/05 Movie Lover Give me a break... Nothing new since Crouching Dragons & Hidden tigers, and Heroes... 1 stars
12/29/04 burton miller great fight scenes - lousy dialog - lousy characters - laughable story 3 stars
12/29/04 Mrwill chinese martial art film with good sound track and brilliant visual storytelling 4 stars
12/25/04 DM Better than the overrated "Hero" 5 stars
12/25/04 Hated it Wonderful... till it started. 1 stars
12/24/04 I Horrible. 1 stars
12/20/04 Mark D Fulwiler Awesome and beautiful 5 stars
12/19/04 Dan Olson Great visuals, terrible plot. I honestly don't know why it gets such positive reviews. 3 stars
12/18/04 Darren Shea Beautiful and complex, it brings martial arts films to a whole new level of artistry. 4 stars
12/12/04 Heather Stunning 5 stars
12/10/04 ASS STINK problematic insofar as the prpic demands 4 stars
12/10/04 Kristina Williams even better looking than Hero, if you van imagine that. 5 stars
12/05/04 Raymond Li Awesom-A Chinese Indiana Jones-great afternoon matinee! 5 stars
12/05/04 maria No me gusto mucho. 1 stars
11/27/04 Yue Great action, not much thought 4 stars
11/25/04 jack very good action movie with romantic story 5 stars
10/23/04 Jon Cheung Bad char. dev. for Lau, poor storyline (last 1/2 especially). Good action seq. + Zhang Ziyi 2 stars
10/19/04 realyn its very good movie i watch it over and over again, cooL movie 5 stars
10/17/04 Bobby Stunning! Exceeds CTHD and Hero 5 stars
10/15/04 Pete Sorry, hate it. Friends had a good laugh over most of the scenes though 1 stars
10/12/04 Dong Ampil de los Reyes All-too lush... It's a spectacle 5 stars
9/24/04 Kim I kept watching it over & over again. 5 stars
9/12/04 Zaharin Hamid aka The Movie Samseng Good romantic storyline and great action scenes. But how come that dagger didn't fall out? 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2005

UK
  N/A

Australia
  17-Feb-2005


Directed by
  Zhang Yimou

Written by
  Li Feng
  Wang Bin
  Zhang Yimou

Cast
  Takeshi Kaneshiro
  Andy Lau
  Zhang Ziyi
  Dandan Song



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