House Of Flying Daggers

House Of Flying Daggers

****

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

Like every fable, House Of Flying Daggers manipulates probability to suit its purpose. Nothing appears remotely credible, yet, unlike Yimou Zhang's other visual feast, Hero, the plot is almost Shakespearean in its configuration.

The title refers to a secret army of rebels in 9th century China, when the country was ruled by warlords and the peasants suppressed by fear and poverty. The mysterious Flying Daggers stole from the rich to give to the poor (Robin wasn't the first) and were a thorn in the side of corrupt administrations.

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Leo (Andy Lau), a provincial police chief, orders Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), his lieutenant, to investigate the pleasure palace and, especially, Mei (Ziyi Zhang), a new dancer, only recently hired, as there have been rumours circulating about a possible connection to the rebel group.

Jin considers himself well-suited for such a task, being addicted to the charms of the opposite sex, and when he meets the elegant, self-effacing Mei, he is struck, not only by her extraordinary agility, being blind, but by her elusive beauty.

Impersonating a rich playboy, Jin warms to his assignment, yet is careful to remember to report back to Leo at every opportunity, even when accompanying Mei on horseback through the vast autumnal forest, where the Flying Daggers are reported to congregate.

The action is exquisite, the cinematography sublime and Ziyi Zhang's balletic skills breathtaking. Two scenes are especially memorable, the bean game dance in the pleasure palace and the battle in the bamboo wood. Yimou Zhang's use of slow motion and visual effects has an artistic integrity that compliments the romanticism of the story.

Do not assume that this is Hero 2, despite its Crouching Tiger moments. The plot is neither simplistic nor perfunctory - there are more twists than a hairpin - and the path of true love does not run smooth.

Lau is too cold and Kaneshiro too expressive, while Ziyi Zhang, who holds the key to all their hearts, is mesmerising.

Reviewed on: 23 Dec 2004
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House Of Flying Daggers packshot
Knives, passion, police, bamboo, disguise, a blind dancer, a dangerous quest in 9th century China.
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Director: Zhang Yimou

Writer: Li Fengi, Wang Bin , Zhang Yimou

Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang, Dandan Song

Year: 2004

Runtime: 119 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: China/Hong Kong

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