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House of Flying Daggers, The

China (2004), 119 minutes
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang, Anita Mui
Reviewer: Val Frost
Genre: Martial Arts
Rating: 4

The House Of Flying Daggers is a super-secret anti-government organization that pulls Robin Hood-type moves and steals from the rich to give to the poor. Of course, the local officials aren’t too keen on any of this. Leo (Lau), the chief of police in this one district, hears that the Daggers have placed a mole at the local brothel. He instructs his second in command, Jin (Kaneshiro) to go check out the situation.

The mole turns out to be the beautiful – and blind – Mei (Ziyi Zhang). Jin goes ape-shit over her, and Leo arrests them both. At the prison, Mei is rescued by Jin in a scheme to find the location of the House of Flying Daggers, and off they go. Jin has to both try and convince Mei that he is on her side, and alternately fend off Leo’s worries that he is falling for Mei.

That’s the plot basics. There are some twists and turns later on in the film but let’s face it, the plot is truly secondary to both the cinematography and the fight sequences here. As a matter of fact, the plot actually slows the film down. Yeah, yeah, romance and shit, but let’s get on to more fighting! And the fighting is incredible. Sure, computer generated effects are used here, but its still pretty impressive and more than that, fun.

I felt that for the first three-quarters of the film, plot and the fight sequences were not necessarily connected – it seems to me that the plot was nothing more than a convenient way of linking the martial arts. It wasn’t until the final quarter, when the plot and action tie-in, that I felt the passion, loss and desperation of the characters. Ziyi Zhang is utterly convincing as the blind dancer, and the bravado of Kaneshiro makes him nearly unlikable – at least in the beginning – but now that’s the whole point, isn’t it? I will say, though, that the ending is a tad disappointing… one word fer ya: Melodrama. Yeah.

The cinematography, while not as lush at Yimou Zhang’s Hero, is still fucking gorgeous. The House Of Flying Daggers is worth checking out on the big screen (despite the ending). Though not Yimou Zhang’s best work, it’s rather remarkable within its own framework.