Movie Reviews by EDF and Neils Hesse
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang, Song Dandan
Director: Zhang Yimou
Review by EDF
After the critical and commercial success of HERO, Zhang Yimou provides us with a follow-up movie that is more of the same. Before you start shouting, “we don’t need another HERO”, while the style and images are just as stunning, the story offers just as many twists as HERO but unlike HERO, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS is simply a love story. Unlike CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON the characters allow their hearts to lead them to their final destinies.
Set in China, 859 A.D., after more than two prosperous centuries, the Tang Dynasty is headed by a weak and incompetent Emperor who has now lost control over his people. An underground alliance called “The House Of Flying Daggers” is gaining popularity as they steal from the rich and give to the poor. The local deputies fear and hate them and do what they can to stop them. However the relentless House of Flying Daggers have selected a new leader after the previous one was assassinated by the deputies. Desperate to stop the HFD, the deputies are given ten days to assassinate the new leader of the House.
Mei (Ziyi Zhang), a blind girl working in a brothel called the Peony Pavilion is arrested by the Captain of the counties and is found out to be a member of the Flying Daggers. Mei is given a choice to either reveal who the new leader is or have her legs broken. Mei escapes before she can reveal the information the deputies are looking for with the help of Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro), a client from the brothel. Jin suspects that Mei is the long lost blind daughter of the assassinated leader. On the run and being pursued by the government soldiers it is not long before Jin and Mei fall in love. Not totally trusting Jin, Mei wants to find out more about him. Jin refuses and Mei leaves him. Will Jin really let Mei head off towards the approaching soldiers and is Mei correct to be suspicious about Jin?
Just as with HERO, this is a totally engrossing movie with memorable set pieces. Unlike HERO, people might feel short changed by the ending. I pointed out earlier that this was essentially a love story that is cleverly dressed up as an action movie. With this in mind, you just might enjoy this as much as HERO for possibly different reasons.
Review by Neils Hesse
Can the love shared between two people for many years be shattered so easily when someone you’d least expect comes along to captivate and seemingly awaken the senses of one of them in a way that could never have been imagined?
This is part of the tale of an empire that is failing its people and as such is coming to an end mainly due to the rigorous attacks waged by a rebel group known only as The House Of Flying Daggers. The government is aware of the impending threat of this group so they assign two captains, played by Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau, to seek out the leader of the team and destroy them once and for all. The two captains decide to follow up on information they have received about a mysterious blind girl who is a new, very popular dancer in their area and whom they suspect may have some sort of a link to the rebels. It is arranged for her to be arrested but then heroically rescued by one of the very same captains who goes undercover to gain her trust with the hope of getting to the leader of the House Of flying Daggers. As with all elaborate plans the one thing that can never be planned for is the human element and true enough the undercover captain and the mysterious girl fall helplessly in love with one another and this leads them to a shocking and tragic finale.
Zhang Yimou, the man behind HERO, crafts another masterpiece of martial arts, politics and love with this film based in 859 AD China and centred on the demise of the Tang Dynasty. Although it does not have as much of a political punch as HERO it still has dazzling martial arts set pieces for the action fans and a twisted love triangle for all those sentimental people out there. He has taken time to develop the characters well enough to ensure that the viewer will actually care about what will happen to them next so you get pulled in on their journey, for better or worse. Visually it is quite simply very beautiful, particularly one fight sequence filmed in the snow that goes on for some length but is moulded to suit the emotional impact of the characters with the intensity of the snow.
Ziyi Zhang plays the mysterious blind girl who may or may not be part of the notorious rebel group, who even though visually impaired proves to be very strong willed and more than capable of looking after herself. She handles the emotional turmoil of her character very well as her character is faced with many hard choices involving love, true love and duty.
Andy Lau expertly portrays the captain who closely coordinates the mission and turns out to be a very complex character with many hidden agendas while Takeshi Kaneshiro brings a fresh passionate turn to his character as the captain who has always had his way with the ladies but is still duty bound to do the job at hand. That is until he meets this woman who makes him do things that he would never have even dreamed of doing.
Beautiful people, music, scenery, fantastic martial arts and an intriguing love story – now tell me what more could you possibly ask for?
Definitely one for the big screen!