House of Flying Daggers, 2004

In an age of lawlessness and impotent (and corrupt) central authority, a member of the notorious, underground alliance of righteous, altruistic warriors known as the House of Flying Daggers is believed to be operating among the pleasure workers of the Peony Brothel. Police officers Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) attempt to root out the assassin by infiltrating the brothel and come upon the brothel’s new star entertainer, a captivating blind dancer named Mei (Zhang Ziyi) who immediately demonstrates a skill and agility that may perhaps reveal her true identity. As in Zhang’s recent epic fantasy Hero, House of Flying Daggers is a visually stunning, elegantly composed, and intricately choreographed presentation of (what is now) all too familiar period martial arts elements of suspended disbelief, revenge, mysterious identity, treachery, and seduction. Beautifully photographed in tonal and saturated compositions and featuring a series of entertaining, impressively staged acrobatics, the film is nevertheless a slight (if not inexplicably underformed in the appearance of a brief, but narratively integral cutaway shot that is never developed) and ultimately unsubstantive tale of deception, tested faith, and sacrificed love.

© Acquarello 2004. All rights reserved.

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