Directed by: Yimou Zhang
Written by:Feng Li, Bin Wang, Yimou Zhang
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro, Ziyi Zhang, Andy Lau, Dandan Song
Released: February 17, 2005
Grade: C+

House Of Flying Daggers is a beautifully film… visually.  When you see it in all its glory on the big screen, you’ll be struck by the cinematography from Xiaoding Zhao.  From the greens of the bamboo forest, to the browns of the open country in autumn and to the whites of a sudden snowstorm – a myriad of colours has been splashed throughout.  I’m not the only one to notice Zhao’s work – he’s been nominated for best cinematography at this year’s Academy Awards (alongside The Aviator, The Passion Of The Christ, The Phantom Of The Opera, and A Very Long Engagement).

Ah, but looks aren’t everything.  Aside from the impeccable camera work, Daggers is a mess.  The director of the film is Yimou Zhang and we saw his last film only a few months ago here in Australia – Hero with Jet Li.  Both films are similar since they tell ancient Chinese stories and use the latest in special effects technology to create exciting martial arts sequences.  Many critics have enjoyed both films but I can honest say that Hero is vastly superior to this effort.

Set in a long forgotten era, a secret army known as the House of Flying Daggers has arisen to overthrow the corrupt government.  No one knows the leader of this army and a police officer named Jin (Kaneshiro) thinks he has a chance to find out.  One of the Daggers, a dancer named Mei (Zhang) has been captured and by pretending to be friend, Jin helps Mei escape from custody in the hope she will lead him to the army’s lair…

I am extremely critical of Zhang’s direction here.  It’s terribly sloppy and the editing looks rushed.  There’s a strange mix of fast-mo, slow-mo and regular-mo which was annoying more than artistic.  Further, you could tell as they panned from one camera angle to the next, that it wasn’t filmed simultaneously.  I know it never is, but you should at least make it look like it is!  One of the first scenes in the film sees Mei perform an elaborate dance.  This is a perfect example of the problems I speak of.  She keeps using her dress to beat on drums despite the fact she’s standing way too far away from them.

The script here isn’t much better.  After a tedious opening, I had thoughts of closing my eyes as the tiredness set in.  Unfortunately, one can’t do so in a subtitled film – you have to watching the screen at all times or you’ll have no idea what is being said.

I’m appreciative of British critics but my jaw hits the floor when I release that Daggers was nominated for nine British Academy Awards.  What were they thinking?  Like a Pamela Anderson or a Paris Hilton, House of Flying Daggers looks promising on the outside but is remarkably unintelligent on the inside.