In his follow-up to the box office hit "Hero," Yimou Zhang created a second picture of comparable visual quality called "House of Flying Daggers." It was praised by critics as excellent - I have to ask why.
"Daggers" is a good movie. It has good acting, good visual effects and an interesting if ultimately simple plot. Zhang takes great pleasure in creating art on the big screen; every scene bulges with beautiful scenery, elegant fighting or bright and bold colors. And the movie stars Zhang Ziyi, who I consider to be one of the hottest Asian women alive (and she could kick my ass if our dream date goes sour).
It's entertaining from beginning to end, too. The story is about a soldier who defies his army to free a blindly beautiful assassin from certain death - only his real mission is to seduce her while she leads him to the home of the rebellious Flying Daggers. Of course, his seduction soon turns to real love and his duties are torn. More twists follow, but nevertheless none of the twists blow you away. Strangely, "Hero" also had several plot changes that took place during the course of its story, and I really didn't care there, either. Sure, they're neat "twists," but nothing more than a novelty.
However, what really added salt to the wound in regards to "Daggers" are the visuals. Strangely enough, the visuals are both the movie's strongest element and its biggest flaw - in some scenes they wow, while in others they make you chuckle. Obviously, it is never in director Zhang's intention to be bound by the rules of physics or reality, but some of the stuff in "Daggers" goes beyond mysticism. In one scene, the two leads are captured by a bunch of assassins who for some untold reason like to hang from narrow bamboo stalks - they capture the leads by throwing a bunch of bamboo stalks just right so that the two heroes are pinned in an instant jail cell. In another scene, actress Zhang hits a bunch of drums with her scarves - yet her scarves are never long enough to reach the drums. Oh, and the scene was silly and stupid, too.
I'm getting tired, so I'll call it quits. I liked "Daggers" more than "Hero" as this one had more intriguing characters, but still wasn't immensely impressed. If you liked "Hero" you'll almost surely like "House of Flying Daggers," but otherwise there are better foreign movies out there.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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