Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Premise: In ancient China, an underground resistance group called The House of Flying Daggers begins to oppose the corrupt government. A police deputy (Takeshi Kaneshiro) follows Mei (Ziyi Zhang), a dancer who may have ties to the resistance’s leadership and he falls in love with her.
What Works: This is another gorgeous and emotional film from Yimou (Hero) Zhang. It has lots of rousing action but balances that with a smart story and a strong human center. The film’s action sequences are longer and more elaborate than anything recently seen in this genre. The cinematography is incredible but takes a more realistic approach than Hero’s very formalistic style.
What Doesn’t: There are a few fight scenes that seem to go nowhere or do not move the plot forward. The story is intimate but takes place against a bigger background but the two are not adequately connected. In Akira Kurosawa’s films, for example, the drama of the intimate storyline is influenced by the happenings in the background story. House of Flying Daggers does not acknowledge this background or make it a part of the complication of the story.
Bottom Line: While not possessing the narrative mastery of Hero, The House of Flying Daggers still comes in ahead of the curve in terms of action films. It is able to be very entertaining but also smart and engaging because of its strong human center.
Episode: #35 (January 16, 2005)