Film: House of Flying Daggers

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Film:

House of Flying Daggers

Director: Yimou Zhang
Honors:
Genres:
Distributor: Sony Pictures

No one uses color like Chinese director Zhang Yimou—movies like Raise the Red Lantern or Hero, though different in tone and subject matter, are drenched in rich, luscious shades of red, blue, yellow, and green. House of Flying Daggers is no exception; if they weren’t choreographed with such vigorous imagination, the spectacular action sequences would seem little more than an excuse for vivid hues rippling across the screen. Government officers Leo and Jin (Asian superstars Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) set out to destroy an underground…

Reviews

Amazon.com

No one uses color like Chinese director Zhang Yimou—movies like Raise the Red Lantern or Hero, though different in tone and subject matter, are drenched in rich, luscious shades of red, blue, yellow, and green. House of Flying Daggers is no exception; if they weren’t choreographed with such vigorous imagination, the spectacular action sequences would seem little more than an excuse for vivid hues rippling across the screen. Government officers Leo and Jin (Asian superstars Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) set out to destroy an underground rebellion called the House of Flying Daggers (named for their weapon of choice, a curved blade that swoops through the air like a boomerang). Their only chance to find the rebels is a blind women named Mei (Ziyi Zhang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who has some lethal kung fu moves of her own. In the guise of an aspiring rebel, Jin escorts Mei through gorgeous forests and fields that become bloody battlegrounds as soldiers try to kill them both. While arrows and spears of bamboo fly through the air, Mei, Jin, and Leo turn against each other in surprising ways, driven by passion and honor. Zhang’s previous action/art film, Hero, sometimes sacrificed momentum for sheer visual beauty; House of Flying Daggers finds a more muscular balance of aesthetic splendor and dazzling swordplay. —Bret Fetzer

Barnes and Noble

Devotees of old-fashioned martial arts movies doubtless would be amazed at the reaction to such stylish films as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the more recent Hero. Now, from Zhang Yimou, the latter film’s director, comes House of Flying Daggers, which takes its rightful place alongside the aforementioned epics. Like them, it abounds in physics-bending mysticism and breathtakingly beautiful images. It also subordinates the martial arts content—superbly executed though it is—to a love story with tragic consequences. The diminutive but spirited Zhang Ziyi, who appeared in both Crouching Tiger and Hero, brings her powerful screen presence to the role of Mei, a blind dancer suspected of being a member of the Flying Daggers, an underground resistance movement that springs up under the Tang dynasty in ninth-century China. A policeman named Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), working undercover, befriends the dancer in hopes that she will lead him to the movement’s secret leader. Along the way there’s plenty of action, flawlessly staged and carried out by the legendary stunt performers of Hong Kong’s cinematic community (with a little help from the special effects department). Yimou has no use for the quicksilver cutting and close-up carnage favored by American action film directors; his shot compositions are airy enough to allow full view of the scene’s participants, and the editing conveys rapid motion and graceful fluidity without the jarring incoherence of most contemporary fight scenes. But there’s much more to Flying Daggers than the action. This is a story about love, loyalty, and betrayal, as emotionally complex and rewarding as anything you’ll see in mainstream Hollywood dramas. It’s nothing short of entrancing. Ed Hulse

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