"House of Flying Daggers" is set in China in 859 A.D. during the decline of the Tang Dynasty, one of the most enlightened empires in China at its height. The government was corrupt, the Emperor was incompetent, and unrest was spreading. Rebel armies were forming in protest. The largest and most respected was a secret coalition called "House of Flying Daggers."
The House of Flying Daggers steals from the rich and gives to the poor, and has earned the respect and admiration of the people. They are bitter enemies with the local deputies. Even though the deputies have fought and killed the leader of the House of Flying Daggers, the House continues to thrive and become more powerful under a new leader.
Two captains, Leo, played by Andy Lau, and Jin, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro, are ordered to capture the new leader within ten days. Leo hears that a new dancer at the local brothel is a member of the House, so he sends Jin there undercover to find her. When Jin meets Mei he is surprised to see that she is blind.
Their adventures begin with The Echo Game," a stunning show of Meiís skill and grace, which also betrays her strong will. She reveals that she is a member of the House of Flying Daggers.
Three time Academy Award Winning director Zhang Yimou has created a dazzling jewel with "House of Flying Daggers." It is a compelling love story with breathtaking choreography. This is only Zhangís second "Wuxia" or martial arts films. The first is the Academy Award Winning "Hero" from 2002. Now Zhang says he is hooked on the style and sees "House of Flying Colors" as a tribute to kung fu movies.
The sets, scenery, costume, amazing martial arts, special effects, acting, and original score make "House of Flying Daggers" a coup in its genre. Ziyi Zhang is mesmerizing as Mei. This film is flashier than Chinese language films before about eight years ago, and is clearly geared for wider and more international audiences. Sometimes the intrigue and story twists are confusing, and the story is not the strength of this film. But "House of Flying Daggers" is gorgeous and exciting, and is another winner for Zhang Yimou.
In San Francisco, this is Joan Widdifield for Movie Magazine.
© 2005 - Joan K. Widdifield, Psy.D - Air Date: 12/22/04
House of Flying Daggers
Running time: 119 minutes/PG-13, Mandarin with English subtitles