Movie Reviews 217 – House of Flying Daggers (2004)

House of Flying DaggersCrouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon may have introduced worldwide audiences to flying Asian warriors using bamboo trees as catapulting launchers, but House of Flying Daggers managed to put whole armies in those trees.

As the populace grows tired of an evil and corrupt Tang dynasty emperor and his minions, a rebellious and mysterious new vigilante group called the House of Flying Daggers emerges across the countryside. Local police forces are ordered to quell the rebellion and after they manage to kill the clan leader, it falls upon two local small town constabularies, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) to find the new leader. Having been tipped off that a young new hospitality dancer, Xiao Mei (Ziyi Zhang), is reputed to have ties with the outlaw group, the policemen devise a plot wherein Leo arrests the girl only to have Jin come to her rescue and after gaining her confidence, infiltrate the group to find the new leader.

Thus begins a story replete with layers of lies, deceit, mysteries and many surprises as the true picture is patiently unveiled. In the end we are left with a complex love triangle and deadly duels.

But the plot is merely a vehicle for the true star of the movie, the breathtaking cinematography and set designs. Dazzling battle displays, never ending cycles of lavish colors from the lush green forests, kaleidoscopic dance cathedrals and even the blood red splattered battlegrounds are the canvas that make up this film’s print.

And don’t think for a moment those flying daggers merely serve to enhance an exotic sounding title. There are more flying daggers here than you can shake a bamboo stick it at. In fact, most of the daggers are the pointed bamboo stick variety and perform incredible mid-air path acrobatics that you won’t believe. And the magnificent effects not only accent the battles but encompasses  props throughout, from flowing scarves right down to flying bean treats.

A stately addition to the list of accomplished far east movies that needs to be seen in order to be fully appreciated.

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