House of Flying Daggers

Rating:

Cutting Flowers

Main Cast: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang

Director: Zhang Yimou

A traditional Eastern tale of love and rebellion, House of Flying Daggers mixes beautiful scenery with handsome and beautiful actors to create a solemn, even melancholy painting in hues of winter and spattered blood.

Jin (Kaneshiro) and Leo (Lau) are two government officials (police officers) in China back in the late 700s. Working against them in their region is a rebel group known as the House of Flying Daggers. Jin, the cocky younger one, is tasked by the more experienced Leo to go undercover and infiltrate the ‘House. Rumors bring him to another house of pleasure, where the blind girl Mei (Zhang) is the most beautiful and skilled dancer of them all. And she is, of course, the ‘House secret agent.

As with any Hong Kong/Asian action-romance film, this one is beautifully photographed. Colors are used liberally to paint action on the screen, and the martial arts and dancing are skilled and graceful. I couldn’t help but marvel at a few surprising scenes, such as the fight in the bamboo forest and the flight across the flowered grassland.

For those not familiar with the genre, I can only say not to expect a traditional Hollywood ending. The plot revolves around the courtship of Jin and Mei, their flight from the government driving them forward. The war between the rebels and government takes a back seat to focus on the three principle characters, and indeed proves irrelevant, although it does perform its function as plot and motive.

While the plot seems to be one seen many times before, as indeed it is, the relationship between the characters is sound and worth a look. As is the beautiful scenery. I took the movie Hero to task for being nothing more than a slideshow, and The House of Flying Daggers is just as perfectly filmed. But House has a heart, lacking in Hero.

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