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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Brian McKay

"Not just flying, but apparently laser-guided"
4 stars

Thankfully, we don't have to wait two years to get director Yimou Zhang's latest feature stateside, like we did with HERO as it languished in a holding pattern at Miramax until earlier this year. But although HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is a big and beautiful Martial Arts epic like it's predecessor, the RASHOMON-like storytelling and thinly veiled communist propaganda have been replaced with a pretty straightforward love story.

But although the story has changed, the basic ingredients remain the same - gorgeous cinematography, incredible landscapes, stunning fight sequences, and the seemingly ubiquitous Zhang Ziyi looking hot as ever (and proving herself an increasingly talented young actress).

Set in the final days of the Tang Dynasty (circa 900 A.D.), HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS presents a China in upheaval. As the Tang's power weakens, and the land is plagued by corrupt officials and police, A revolution is on the rise, led by a group of skillful assassins known as the House of Flying Daggers. When local constable Leo (Andy Lau) receives word that the newest courtesan at a high-class brothel may be a spy sent by the Flying Daggers, he sends his second in command Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a drunk and womanizer, to go check out this new girl. What Jin finds is that Mei (Zhang Ziyi) is not only achingly beautiful, but also blind. But that doesn't keep her from handling a sword with a Zatoichi-like prowess when her identity is revealed. While she is more than a match for most of Leo's guards, she proves unable to overcome Leo himself and ends up in prison to await torture, unless she reveals where the Flying Daggers are hiding out.

Unwilling to let such a rare beauty be tormented, Jin busts her out, and the two flee across the unbelievably gorgeous Chinese countryside, fighting with government troops every step of the way as they search for the Flying Daggers. Despite her initial mistrust of him, and his seeming inability to feel anything for a woman besides lust, they each find themselves falling for the other. But not everyone is who they claim they are, and not everyone's intentions are what they appear to be.

On a visual level, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is just astounding. And it often is on an emotional level as well, as the actors, and the emotions they convey, rise above the melodramatic trappings of the script, giving us two people we can genuinely feel for. However, the many lingering shots of lovers in contemplation do tend to drag on a bit long at times, breaking up the film's pacing in-between the fight scenes.

As for the fights themselves, they prove to be quite impressive - although they will require that you suspend your belief in the laws of physics for two hours. While the characters do not engage in excessive high-flying wire work, they do make flying daggers (and swords, and bamboo spears, and wooden stakes) do all kinds of gravity-defying ricochets and boomerang loop-de-loops, striking their targets with laser precision. Believable? Not at all. But fun as hell to watch? Most definitely.

Unfortunately, there are one or two plot contrivances which can't really be discussed here because they would, in turn, reveal the plot twists. But while the story isn't perfect, and the running time to tell it may be a bit excessive, there is certainly enough visual candy, action, and solid acting to make HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS well worth your while.

Like HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen. Hopefully the fact that it is being made accessible to western audiences more quickly is a sign of a new Stateside emergence in quality Asian cinema in the coming years.

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originally posted: 10/26/04 11:11:24
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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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