REVIEW: HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS

CAST

Andy Lau (Internal Affairs)
Zhang Ziyi (Hero)
Takeshi Kaneshiro (The Warlords)
Dandan Song (I Love My Family)

In AD 859, as the Tang Dynasty declines, a number of rebel groups are established, the largest of which is the House of Flying Daggers, based in Fengtian, who battle the corrupt government that oppresses the people. Its members steal from the rich and give to the poor, gaining the support of the locals. Two police officers, Leo (Andy Lau) and Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) – who are best friends – are ordered to kill the leader of the group within ten days, a task that appears to be impossible as no-one knows who the leader of the House of the Flying Daggers is.

To accomplish this, Leo arrests Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a blind dancer who is suspected of being the previous leader’s daughter. Jin proceeds to assault the jail and set Mei free, pretending that he is a rebel sympathizer, an act which gains Mei’s trust. As Mei and Jin travel to the Flying Dagger headquarters, Leo trails behind with reinforcements. Unfortunately, Mei and Jin fall in love.
To make the deception more realistic, Leo and his men pretend to ambush the pair. Later, though, they are ambushed for real by a different group. At a secret meeting, Leo explains that the military has gotten involved and wants Jin and Mei dead. A few days later, Jin and Mei are ambushed again, but they are saved by the House of Flying Daggers and taken to their headquarters. At this point, it is revealed that Mei isn’t really blind, and furthermore, that she is engaged to Leo, who has secretly been a Flying Dagger member. The Flying Daggers are not afraid of the military, but rather, they are looking forward to an open battle. A heartbroken Leo tells Mei that he waited for her for three years since he went undercover to infiltrate the police, and asks how she could fall in love with Jin after only three days; only to be informed by Mei that she has her heart set on Jin.

Mei, however, cannot bring herself to love Leo, since she now loves Jin. Leo tries to rape Mei but Mei’s superior throws a dagger into Leo’s back. Shortly after, Mei is told to execute Jin for being a police officer. She frees him instead, but refuses to desert the House so that she could join him. Half an hour later, Mei suddenly changes her mind and rides after Jin, but is ambushed by Leo, who casts two daggers at her. Mei tosses her sword, managing to deflect one of them while the other pierces her breast. At this point, Jin discovers Leo and the two of them fight, but their skills are too evenly matched with neither gaining an advantage as they bloodily battle one another over the course of a raging blizzard that suddenly falls upon them. Meanwhile, the House gets assaulted by the military.

Finally, Leo pulls the dagger out of his back and threatens to throw it at Jin. Mei threatens to pull the dagger out of her breast and throw it at Leo, which would cause her to die from blood loss, but Jin begs her to protect her own life. After waiting for several tense moments, Leo, feeling suicidal, decides to pretend to throw his dagger and be killed. To his great surprise, Mei attempts to use her own dagger to intercept Leo’s dagger in flight. The result of all this is that neither Leo nor Jin die, but only Mei. In the end, Leo stumbles away in guilt while Jin cries over Mei’s dead body, singing a song praising her as a “rare beauty”, the likes of which he will never see again. The question of whether the House won against the military is left ambiguous.There may be some unanswered questions at the end of the movie and yet I’d watch this film over and over again just to witness the use of costumes, the martial arts skill and how they blend to make a very palatable story. As can be the case in Asian films, like the recent hit “Hero”, the costumes and the use of color are important characters all by themselves. So many elements come together beautifully that what’s also ironic is the that film could easily be a stage play. I enjoyed this immensely. Just awe-inspiring!