House of Flying Daggers (2004) – Retro Review

In 2002 a film was released which had film critics and fans of martial arts movies alike praising director Zhang Yimou’s stunning Hero. Starring Jet Li the film won numerous awards and was nominated as best foreign language film at the Acadamy Awards.

Fast forward to 2004 and his next film was also a martial arts drama called House of Flying Daggers and was to star Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro and Zhang Ziyi. The plot was about a police captain who breaks a woman out of prison so she can unwittingly lead him to the band they are after called the Flying Daggers who steal from the rich and give to the poor. Both men fall under her charms and as they get close to the House of Flying Daggers, not all is as it seems.

As usual, the visuals are beautifully shot with an amazing colour scheme throughout. The love triangle is explored in an unusual way and is not revealed until three-quarters of the way into the film. The action is spectacular and very violent in places and uses CGI to enhance the skills of the combatants in a very skilful way. Action director Ching Siu Tung is no slouch when it comes to this type of film and the wirework involved is expertly done.

Zhang Ziyi is as beautiful as ever and you can see why men would fall under her spell, the intrigue and double-crossing never gets too complicated and it keeps you guessing. The plot is not one of the film’s strong points but the action and cinematography will keep you very entertained through its 120-minute run time.

Highlights include the dancing scene with the drums, a fantastic prison break with some great boot work shown, the attack in the bamboo forest with ninja-like soldiers and the climactic fight in the snow. All three actors are very good in the roles and the forever young Andy Lau gives a menacing but subtle performance.

The film went on to be nominated for numerous awards at the BAFTAs and Acadamy Awards as well as many others. It reportedly received a 20-minute standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival. It was a box office hit around the world with a total worldwide box-office gross of $92,801,097.

The releases in the USA and UK had some minor problems. The UK release was cut by around 15 seconds for horse falls while in the USA to get a PG-13 rating four parts were deleted and three scenes were edited to delete blood. The only way to see the full uncut version at the moment is the Asian releases on DVD or Blu-ray. The region 3 / A DVD / blu ray can be purchased HERE ON EBAY

While not as good as his previous film Hero, House of Flying Daggers still stands up as a brilliantly made and visually stunning action drama and can still be enjoyed on multiple viewings. Zhang Yimou is definitely one of the finest directors to come out of mainland china.

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