House of Flying Daggers
- Zhang Yimou
- Reviewed by
- Gon Curiel a.k.a. Groucho
- Review date
- Thursday, May 12, 2005
This time around, the story involves a rebellion against the empire in the form of a clandestine association called “House of Flying Daggers”. The action begins inside a brothel where customer Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) is arrested for being disrespectful to officers while harassing blind prostitute Mei (Zhang). This girl is soon found to actually be a member of the Flying Daggers, and not just any member, but the daughter of its former leader.
The officers don’t hesitate to torture the girl in order to find out the location of the rebels, and that’s when the most unexpected thing happens: Nasty Jin rescues her for no apparent reason. Mei is obviously grateful, and though she doesn’t trust him completely at first, she soon starts falling in love with him, and vice versa. It seemed to me like I was watching an extended version of the middle section of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, also featuring Zhang.
It soon gets interesting however, when it seems like neither can really trust the other, for good reasons. The continuous presence of a soldier on their tail (Andy Lau) is a mysterious aspect that makes the procedures more tasteful. However, there are moments like the one in which she takes a bath that make the experience really worthwhile, since the effectiveness of the film lies in the bond between two characters, instead of the feud between two colossal forces they might be a part of.
The rest is all mind-blowing martial arts with eye-popping visual effects. By now they’re cliché, admittedly, but director Zhang manages to give them a fresh look and make them exciting nonetheless. Visually, the film is most impressive, probably even more than Zhang’s own Hero (2002), and the action is simply unstoppable. Another asset is the use of these kind of scenes for romantic or sexual purposes, like the couple of “echo game” scenes, which are amazing.
The performances by the three leads are quite good considering the material; I love Ziyi Zhang, but I especially enjoyed the male performances, embodying a larger-than-life rivalry that’s actually based on basics. Really good job.
Hero and this film are a couple of artistic and, for sure, commercial efforts by Yimou Zhang, whose obvious liking of the genre makes them easy to watch and enjoy. However, something’s keeping them from being unforgettable, and that should be the lack of originality and innovation. Let’s see what’s next for us to behold. Hopefully, something a tad better.
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Other reviews of House of Flying Daggers (2004): Morris