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Review of House of Flying Daggers

Published December 6, 2004 in MOVIE REVIEW
By Ryan Parsons | Images property of Sony Pictures Classics
Mei [Ziyi Zhang] learns that bamboo can make an extraordinary weapon.
I just got back in from viewing Yimou Zhang's House of Flying Daggers, starring Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, and Ziyi Zhang [the Asian chick from Rush Hour 2]. First off, I am a little disappointed that House of Flying Daggers is not a top ten viewed movie currently on this site. I expect this is due to the fact that there are still those that have a phobia of sub-titles in a film; even if the film is really good.

House of Flying Daggers

The entire story is about a rebellious alliance called the House of Flying Daggers. The government has gone corrupt, and this alliance serves to rise up against this government. A pretty cool idea as the film begins with the viewer being introduced to Jin and Leo, two soldiers [police] in the services of the corrupt government. Jin is the county captain who is responsible for the assassination of the head of the Flying Daggers some time back. Now, the alliance has found a new leader, one that the government wants Jin to seek out and kill. The first clue to this new leader? A local brothel that features a new, and blind, girl dancer with amazing dancing abilities. Jin decides to go undercover and visit the brothel to check out this new girl.

Bamboo prison with Jin
Soon after arriving at the brothel, Jin forgets to watch his Sake intake and tries to make a move on the blind dancer named Mei. Being drunk, lets just say Jin was a little more than aggressive and had to be replaced by the next in command, Leo. Leo tests the girl dancer with what is called the 'Echo Game.' She passes this 'Game', but soon reveals her identity as she tries to assassinate Leo. There is some fighting, and next thing you know Mei is in jail. Leo and Jin figure her to be the daughter of the last ruler of the House of Flying Daggers, as it is known that this girl is also blind. They soon contrive some scheme to have Jin fake rescue Mei to seduce her into leading him right to the new leader of the Flying Daggers; as Jin is one stud-ly soldier known for his ability to seduce the ladies.

After the rescue, begins the adventure that lasts almost the entire film. As Jin travels with Mei, they encounter various opposition by the General's soldiers who do not know that Jin is playing undercover [we learn that this General is definitely a bad guy]. Basically, Jin is forced to kill his own troops. However, even though Jin set out to seduce Mei, he begins to fall for her; causing him to kill the soldiers more to protect her than to protect his identity and do his duty. After some time, and a few rescues, Mei begins to fall for Jin as well.

I cannot go into further depth without handing out spoilers, as there are some pretty nice twists in the film. While the twists were good enough to impress, I also thought they hurt the movie as it was hard to be moved by some of the scenes that should have been 'moving.' We soon learn of a love triangle that leaves you kind of dry on where Mei's love actually lies, at least up until the end of the film. Talk about the blue balls she left these guys with.

Flying Daggers

Bamboo has never been so hot
If you liked the fighting in Hero, you should love the fighting in House of Flying Daggers. The title should give you the biggest picture-- the daggers do go flying, a lot. Among weapons used are swords, bow staff, bow & arrow, daggers, sticks, and bamboo. Each weapon also has its own personality that was cool. You will witness some of the best cinematography in the film when a dagger, or arrow, goes sailing; real cool stuff. The camera will chase items such as these up until they make brutal contact with their target. The only thing that may bother some viewers about the flying daggers is that the weapon pulls off some unrealistic feats such as making sudden turns and hooks. However, the weapon is so damn cool, and brutal, that you should be begging for more use of it.

When it comes to action in House of Flying Daggers, you should have no shortage of it. The main adventure is almost entirely action/fighting with small pauses to build on Jin and Mei's relationship and story. I first heard complaints that the love story takes too long, I did not find this to be the case. I felt Yimou Zhang did his best to quickly navigate the love story and get on with the movie; at least in the case of love scenes. There are some scenes that I thought were cool, but a little drawn out. One such example is the dance scene featuring the introduction of Mei. This scene is probably the most dragged out in the film, which is fine considering it occurs at the beginning and does not affect the pace afterwards.

Saying that, here is my biggest hitch with the film: the ending. I encountered two problems here, problems that cost this film half a point. First, the love story goes into full swing at the end of the film, causing giant pauses and skips in the action. The film starts with a drawn out scene and then ends on one. The next problem is that the film tells us that a huge battle is brewing, a battle we see soon to begin about ten minutes before the end of the film. How does this battle turn out? I don't know, as the film never returns to it, ever. I do not know if Yimou Zhang ran out of money or wanted to keep the story more on the lovers rather than the opposing factions they represent. But I was hoping for something huge! If they weren't going to show the battle, they should have never showed the soldiers closing in on the Flying Daggers.

Chinese Love

I mean this in all the best ways. First, you can tell that a lot of work had gone into creating this film in finding the perfect mix between beauty and brutality. Second, for those of you who have seen Hero, remember the scene where the two lovers end up killing one another over their love. That is some damn tough love, the same type of love also exists in House of Flying Daggers. While this type of love is moving for some, it just doesn't do it for me. However, to not be too harsh, the love between Jin and Mei is wonderfully acted and very convincing.

See Flying Daggers

The love triangle comes full circle
In the end, you should go see this film. It offers tons of cool fighting action with an interesting story and great cinematography to boot. Also, I am not really into all that flying fighting that exists in films such as Hero and Crouching Tiger. While House of Flying Daggers does have some wire fighting, it does not have people continuously floating around while they battle one another; which was a relief to me. The only time people seemed to fly is when the soldiers took pursuit of Jin and Mei along the canopies of the bamboo forest. Other than that, this fighting is easily as good as, if not better, than that of Hero; and without the flying.

Final Judgment: If you ever wondered what would happen if the films Hero and Romeo & Juliet were to have a baby, out would come House of Flying Daggers. We meet two lovers who are each one of the highest representatives of their opposing factions; factions they must leave behind for their love to last. The adventure between the two allows us to see some of the coolest martial arts to hit the big screen and entertain us with bamboo, swords, arrows, and last, but not least... flying daggers.

To check out the trailer and view more movie info, go to the House of Flying Daggers Movie Page

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Compiled By (Sources)
Ryan Parsons
Sources: Images property of Sony Pictures Classics

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