Review of 'House of Flying Daggers'

flying_daggers.jpg In the Tang dynasty of China police office Leo (Andy Lau) sends office Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to the Peony Pavilion, a local brothel, to investigate a young dancer called Mei (Zhang Ziyi) who he believes has ties to the “House of the Flying Daggers”, a terrorist organization that opposes the government. After Leo arrests the blind Mei, Jin frees her in an effort to have her lead him to the headquarters of the Flying Daggers. Things do not go as planned with Jin and Mei eventually falling in love. With the police in hot pursuit they must summon all their skill to survive…though things are not entirely what they seem as the masks they wear slip and fall off…

Though most would watch this film for the stunning action sequences (and they are truly stunning) hopefully they will also be surprised at the surprises in the simple plot. It is only near to the end of the film that the secrets are revealed but by that time it is perhaps too late for many of the characters.

The look and feel of “Flying Daggers” is absolutely incredible - Vibrant colours, fluid action and stunning scenery. You don't really need to know what is going on, just sit back and enjoy the ride, and quite a ride it is with the action never really letting up. The only slight disappointment are in the scenes that are just a tad too unreal to convince (such as the “Echo Dance”) though even here the choreography and look is amazing. To see people literally dancing on the tops of bamboo is something you will not soon forget.

Let's face it, here we are not looking for great acting but in this the cast quite surprises though perhaps with the exception of Ziyi who never quite convinces as Mei (and seems wholly unsympathetic to boot). Kaneshiro and old hand Lau, on the other hand, are utterly compelling as the two policemen managing to do very well in the action sequences despite never having previously performed in such a role. There are not a lot of words spoken here so it is up to the actor to portray their emotions with their body language and in this the two actors excel (Ziyi appears to merely react and only breaks her serious expression on 2 or 3 occasions).

Looks great with a few surprises at the end. An amazing action flick with little in the way of character development and often OTT.

Rating: “Really good but I have some issues”

Review Date: 2020-01-26

Directed by: Yimou Zhang

Studio: Beijing New Picture Film Co

Year: 2004

Length: 119 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure

Other reviewed films by Yimou Zhang: