Film review: House of Flying Daggers

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House of Flying Daggers

Looking back at my review of Hero, the last film by Zang Yimou, I see I gave it a rating of four … well, I may have to posthumously up that to four and a half, because House of Flying Daggers, while not quite as stunning as that film, is still certainly worthy of a four rating.

House of Flying Daggers is set in 859 AD, during the declining an corrupt Tang Dynasty. Local deputies Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) are ordered to capture the new leader of a mysterious group called the House of Flying Daggers who are stealing from the rich to give to the poor. Jin follows a lead to the local brothel and there encounters Mei (the beautiful and talented Ziyi Zhang), a blind dancer who is not all she at first seems. Ziyi Zhang spent two months living with a blind girl and observing her mannerisms, and the research pays off in her performance.

There a quite a few twists and turns in the ensuing story, and sometimes the melodrama typical of this genre threatens to overwhelm it, but if you enjoyed Hero all the same delights are here to be swept up into: the stunning balletic action sequences, the beautiful cinematography, the spectacular colour and movement. Because of their similarities it is difficult not to compare House of Flying Daggers with its predecessor, and it is perhaps not as perfectly stylised and the plot not as engaging as Hero despite the love story centre stage. Some of the tragic ‘will I or won’t I’ moments could have done with editing. I left the theatre a little unsatisfied as was hoping for everything to go up a notch from Zang Yimou’s last film, but perhaps that’s asking too much. House of Flying Daggers is still an incredible achievement from a master of the Wuxia (martial arts) genre.

Four giggling courtesans out of five.

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