"House of Flying Daggers"
Directed by Zhang Yimou.
Written by Feng Li, Bin Wang and Zhang Yimou.
Starring Zhang Ziyi, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau.
Release Year: 2004
Review Date: 12/20/04
Well, I think I am done with wire-fighting
extravaganzas. From "Once Upon a Time in China" (I've only
seen I and II) to
"Iron Monkey" to "The Matrix" films to
"Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" to "Hero", I have seen many of
these mostly PG-13, tame-yet-artistically-beautiful "action" films
and have been mostly satisfied and occasionally blown away by
watching men and women flying around fighting each other to a
bloodless demise, all the while getting caught up in beautiful
scenery and even more attractive leads.
In "House of Flying Daggers" (not
surprisingly, directed by "Hero" director Zhang Yimou), we get more
beautiful people--played by superstar Andy Lau, superstar part two
Zhang Ziyi, and superstar part three Takeshi Kaneshiro--that spend
most of their time swordfighting in the countryside. Two cops,
Jin (Kaneshiro) and Leo (Lau), attempt to take down a rogue assassin
company known as the House of Flying Daggers in a time long, long
ago, and they think they have a lead with a local blind hooker named
Mei (Ziyi). So, Jin goes undercover as a rich
playboy/professional killer and somehow convinces Mei to lead him to
the House headquarters...but, in the course of their travels, the
general of the country's army sends soldiers after the blind girl,
not knowing that Jin--an agent of the same government--is already
keeping tabs on the girl. So, to keep up the act, Jin must
fight against his own men to convince Mei to lead him to the
Hey, "House of Flying Daggers" has some
moments of very cool special effects, I won't lie. And, I love
watching Lau work (he also starred in one of my faves from a couple
"Fulltime Killer"), so watching these people play out the string
can be enough at times. But there are long stretches--LONG
stretches--in-between any action. After Mei and Jin start
their journey to the Daggers' base, you get the romantic angle mixed
with an occasional killing spree, but then it's back to watching Mei
and Jin walk around in the country. There isn't much humor,
there isn't any back-and-forth with a bad guy, or any other faction,
so we stick mostly with watching Mei stumble around and Jin
wondering what he should do to dig himself out of this horrible
And even when we do get some action, because
this "mystical arts" drama genre is becoming so played out, nothing
about "House of Flying Daggers" looks that fresh. We get the
requisite men-fighting-on-bamboo-trees bit; jump kicks seem to be
executed over hilariously-long distances; arrows and daggers and
flying swords rarely miss their mark. Mei--even though she IS
supposed to be blind--is quite accurate with her kicks and punches,
but then becomes a mix of the traditional damsel-in-distress and Pam
Anderson in "Barb Wire", becoming a cold-blooded harlet whenever the
situation calls for it. Because this is PG-13, "House of
Flying Daggers" mostly traffics in the safe, non-threatening TV
violence of something like an "Alias", without any real
bone-crunching action but with a high-enough body count that even an
action cynic will leave saying "well, at least a hundred guys got
offed in the process."
I don't know, I just don't think these kinds
of films explore any more ground than a "Hero" or the first "Matrix"
film did. As visual spectacle, "House of Flying Daggers" is
nowhere near as lush as "Hero" was; as action spectacle,
"Master of the Flying Guillotine" was better, and funnier, than
"Daggers" ever gets to be. And, the ending for "Daggers" is
just fucking awful; in my theater on opening day, man, there were
guys laughing during a bit where a fight lasts so long that the
freakin' SEASONS change...and then, you get the obligatory
too. Wow, this ending was bad. I don't want to give too
much away, but anti-climactic doesn't even give you half the picture
you need to see what I'm talking about.
In my professional opinion, you should skip
this right now and catch "Hero" on DVD instead. Then, retire
from watching these films altogether.
Comments? Drop me a line at
Bellview Rating System:
"Opening Weekend": This is
the highest rating a movie can receive. Reserved for movies that
exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development,
setting...or Salma Hayek. Not necessarily in that order.
"$X.XX Show": This price
changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently,
it is the $9.50 Show. While not technically perfect, this is a
movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.
"Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca",
but you'll have a great time watching. The $9.50 Show won't win any
Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see
"Matinee": An average movie
that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.
Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about
yourself. A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave
the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that
Lakers game last night?"
"Rental": This rating
indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your
friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one." Mostly forgettable, you
couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to
watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the
video store was out of copies of "Ronin." If you can, see this
movie for free. This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a
"Hard Vice": This rating is
the bottom of the barrel. A movie that only six other human beings
have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen. A Shannon
Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every
one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a
movie. Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or
"Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this
movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!
(Warning: strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard