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Overall Rating

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 Scott Weinberg

"Another fantastic action-romance from the land of the rising sword."
4 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2004 TORONTO FILM FESTIVAL: Crazier than Crouching Tiger, zippier than Zatoichi, hotter than Hero. This one is a feast for the eyeballs, a treat for the romantically-inclined, and a full-course feast for the action aficionados.

Thanks to the generally excellent (yet still overrated) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, we're currently in the midst of an Asian Action Renaissance, and you can now add talented filmmaker Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern) to the ranks that include Ang Lee, Takashi Miike and the other modern masters of martial arts mayhem.

The colorfully-titled House of Flying Daggers is being billed as this year's CTHD, mainly because that's one of the only ways to get American moviegoers to pay for subtitled cinema. And that's just fine, because those who thrilled to the high-flying action and deeply romantic entanglements of Ang Lee's Oscar-winning film are precisely the sort of folks who will be fighting down goose bumps as 'Flying Daggers' unfolds.

It's 9th centruy China, and the land is under the thumb of a corrupt government. A secret cadre of justice-seekers does what it can to keep the countryside safe for the common man, but the Flying Daggers have a whole lot of corruption to contend with. Captains Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and Leo (Andy Lau) hatch an exceedingly clever scheme in an effort to bring the daggers down: Jin will ingratitate himself with a showgirl who's suspected of being a Dagger, while Leo will follow behind in quiet pursuit until the gang's hideout is uncovered.

Their plan is clever in concept; extremely hairy in execution. The first stop for Jin is the Peony Pavilion, and this is where he initially butts heads with the blind and achingly gorgeous Mei, as played by the achingly gorgeous Zhang Ziyi. After a series of crazily kinetic dance-fighting, Mei is arrested by Leo...and then Jin promptly breaks her out of the pen. From there it's a lengthy and lovingly-realized series of forest fights, backwoods brawls, and shocking character revelations.

House of Flying Daggers is the best sort of adventure movie, in that the action sequences are long, dazzling, and actually part of the story. In most Hollywood action flicks, the flashy parts exist to stop the plot whole, and once a certain villain is dispatched, the actual story slowly revs back up again. Such is clearly not the case here, as House of Flying Daggers is as visually vibrant as it is dramatically engaging. (Feast your eyes on the interiors of the Peony Pavilion for just one small taste of Yimou's attention to eye-dazzling detail.) Were it not for a handful of annoying third-act speed bumps, this would rank among the year's best movies.

The romantic entanglements that are gradually revealed add a whole lot of dramatic gravity to the insane action-oriented antics, but let's make one thing clear: "House of Flying Daggers" is all about the action scenes. There are several, most involving swords, sticks, and (of course) daggers - and the sad, simple truth is that this flick puts most Hollywood Action Fare to shame. Hopefully the Asian filmmakers will continue to give us two or three new ones each year...until the American Movie Machine finally figures out why these movies are so globally successful.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 09/12/04 07:47:43
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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
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  03-Dec-2004 (PG-13)
  DVD: 19-Apr-2005



Directed by
  Zhang Yimou

Written by
  Li Feng
  Wang Bin
  Zhang Yimou

  Takeshi Kaneshiro
  Andy Lau
  Zhang Ziyi
  Dandan Song

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