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十面埋伏 (2004)
House of Flying Daggers

Reviewed by: Hyomil
Date: 04/07/2011

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: STSH
Date: 10/30/2010
Summary: Very depressing but gorgeous to watch

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Chungking_Cash
Date: 03/05/2008

Zhang Yimou's second successive martial arts picture matches its predecessor's ("Hero") aesthetic merit frame-for-frame; the art direction, costumes, and make-up are replete with rich vibrant colors that warmly bath a sound cast. Ching Siu-tung returns as action director and offsets titillating Western special effects with -- comparative to 2002's "Hero" -- far more grounded choreography. And yet there is something missing here and perhaps it amounts to nothing more than a needless but somehow obligatory comparison to the superior "Hero" which is far more engaging and suffice to say more entertaining. Abandon the association and "House of Flying Daggers" proves a fairly effective home remedy for the lack of [quality] martial arts films in the new millennium.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Gaijin84
Date: 02/03/2006
Summary: A worthy follow up to Hero...

Although not a perfect film, the criticsm of House of Flying Daggers has seemed a bit overdone. The film itself is incredibly well choreographed and beautifully shot, with the colors almost becoming overwhelming in some parts, but adding to the aura and emotions. There are scenes, after which the audience cheered (the Echo dance), that will leave you speechless and anxiously waiting to see what Zhang Yimou will do next. All three leads (Ziyi, Lau and Kaneshiro) were great in their roles and the love triangle aspect was developed well and had some force behind it. The fight choreography was also crisp and exciting, with the special effects adding (unlike some Hollywood pieces) to the enjoyment of the action.

The only glaring criticism that could be fairly leveled at the film is the ending, which unfortunately (without giving anything away) becomes unbelievable and silly. However, those 10 minutes should not subtract from the movie as a whole, which is an overall success.

Reviewer Score: 8

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 10/17/2005
Summary: Beautiful but repetitious


Aspect ratio: 2.39:1 (Super 35)
Sound format: Dolby Digital

659 AD: Toward the end of the Tang dynasty, two government agents (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) conspire to infiltrate a dangerous rebel group, but their plot is foiled by a young dancer from the Peony Pavilion (Zhang Ziyi) who leads them both astray...

Zhang Yimou's artful melodrama - apparently based on true events - draws inspiration from Chinese mythology and Japanese chambara epics, though its visual flourishes are decidedly modern in concept and execution. The director's episodic screenplay (co-written with Li Feng and Wang Bin) contains a fair number of gasp-inducing plot twists, supplemented by ultra-stylized battle scenes which culminate in a final confrontation between various characters on a bleak, snowbound hilltop. Like so many of these things, however, it's beautiful but repetitious, redeemed by its heartfelt emotion and cinematic intelligence (note how the movie is broken into four distinct sections, for instance, each one corresponding visually to a particular season of the year), and by the performances of a hugely experienced cast (though superstar Lau is basically sidelined by younger performers Kaneshiro and Zhang). Unlike the overt political content of Zhang Yimou's previous swordplay drama HERO (2002), "House..." is no more than an entertaining yarn, though clearly intended to challenge the dominance of Hollywood movies in Asian theaters. Beautifully photographed by Zhao Xiaoding, with breathtaking fight choreography by industry veteran Tony Ching (A CHINESE GHOST STORY). Dedicated to the memory of singer-actress Anita Mui, who passed away in 2003.

(Mandarin dialogue)

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: Arshadnm6
Date: 04/22/2005
Summary: Another Zhang Yimou epic, with more than disappointing results......

Towards the end of the Tang Dynasty, a rebel group known as the ‘House of Flying Daggers’ occupies the attentions of the Emperor's guard. Local police deputies, Jin (played by Takeshi Kaneshiro from ‘The Returner’, ‘Hero’ and ‘Dr. Wai in the “The Scripture with no Words”’) and Leo (played by Andy Lau from ‘The Duel’, ‘Yesterday once more’ and ‘A World without Thieves’) are in charge of exposing members of the secret society, and act quickly when rumours contend that a new girl at the Peony Pavilion brothel is in fact a member (the blind daughter of the head of the group) of the House of Flying Daggers. Deputy Jin goes undercover as a customer to capture stunningly gorgeous Mei (played by Zhang Ziyi from ‘Hero’, ‘Rush Hour 2’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’), who excels in offering entertainment as a dancer and singer. Both deputies arrest her for further questioning but fail to extract any useful information. Even the threat of torture does not force her to reveal any association that she may have with the House of Flying Daggers. This places both of the deputies in a predicament and due to the circumstances, deputy Leo suggests that they can extract the information more easily from Mei by simulating her escape, and agree upon deputy Jin acting as a sympathetic layabout for the cause of the House of Flying Daggers and to carry out her escape. After the make-believe events play out, deputy Jin adopts the name of Wind and flees with Mei whilst being pursued by other soldiers unaware of the highly secretive plan. Deputy Leo is also not so far away and awaits Deputy Jin’s use of his wayward charms on Mei until she leads him directly to the House of Flying Daggers. It’s a well-thought out plan with one major flaw. No-one ever imagined that Deputy Jin would realistically fall in love with Mei and betray both his allegiance and country.

On first impression, the set-pieces look simply amazing but as the movie develops it moves from these elegant surroundings to seen-before natural forestry, woodlands and hilly environments. The characters are very convincing, their development throughout the feature is clearly visible as well as the use of fluent mandarin to make them believable. The music score is traditional and unfortunately lacks any charisma. A more epic feel to the movie would have brightened things up a little compared to the gloomy, secluded and lonely outlook, however I think the feature tried to present itself otherwise. Furthermore, the wonderful high-budget special effects are presented in adequate locations and reasonable amount to cheer the mood up at scattered points. Although the acting is top-notch, the cast list is way too small with 4 barely recognisable actors only encompassing Takeshi Kaneshiro, Andy Lau, Zhang Ziyi and Song Dandan. It is also very seriously focussed on matters at hand which leave absolutely no space for any comedy whatsoever. Moreover, the action is well-done by action choreographer Ching Siu-Tung (as in ‘Hero’, ‘Shaolin Soccer’ and ‘The Moon Warriors’). However, this collaboration with director, producer and writer Zhang Yimou (from ‘2046’ and ‘Hero’) is not as successful and asks serious questions from both of them regarding their talents in martial arts movies. This movie deals with the serious issue of love and throws in some twists and no sub-plots and the mood of the film seems to bore at best after this concept is grasped by the viewer.

Although, this movie does not directly aim to be a full-on martial arts action movie, its genre selection against romance is questionable and its epic setting does not assist matters. Since Zhang Yimou has very little experience in the area of swordplay action movies, his inexperience is clearly visible and major talents such as Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro do not fill the cracks or corners. The predecessor ‘Hero’ is much more appealing to this production and its small scaling on matters in this movie was a mistake by Zhang Yimou. Also, Zhang Ziyi is still always the centrepiece (or encrusted Jewel) of this movie regardless of the presence of much higher-rated and experienced, Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro. The reason for the success of ‘Hero’ can be explained by her presence in a minimal capacity and clichés of her being involved in intimate and revealing sexual scenes with other well-known big actors (with both Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro here!) as done time and again in several previous movies such as with Tony Leung in ‘Hero’ and with Chang Chen in ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ signifies her appeal to other directors and producers! Wong Jing may certainly find use for her after all and her involvement in all of these popular productions is purely based on generating a commercially-developed superstar with the right face but no real acting skills.

Overall, there is a big question mark over why so much hype and money is invested into productions starring Zhang Ziyi since she has nothing special to offer in any area (far from her idol and experienced Gong Li who deserved her place in this movie). This movie may have been a bigger success if less romance, no Zhang Ziyi and more swordplay had been included. It would be nice if Zhang Ziyi did not appear in a single internationally-renowned movie produced in China!!

Overall Rating: 6.8/10

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 02/17/2005
Summary: H

Let's get one thing straight: HOUSE's strength lies in its visual, not in the plot. If you prefer plot-driven films, I am afraid House might not do it for you. Personally, I didn't feel compelled by House, but the beautiful scenery, memorable score, and Andy Lau's villainous role remain fresh in my mind after several months of viewing.

If you love film in general, you'll want to give House a chance for sure.


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 01/13/2005

After breaking with his usual type of film and meeting with great international success with Hero, many people were excited for Zhang Zimou's followup House of Flying Daggers. Unfortunately, even though the movie starts well and has some brilliant action sequences helmed by the venerable Ching Siu-Tung, the conculsion is so un-satisfying that it leaves a bad taste in the viewer's mouth. By no means is this a horrible movie as some other reviewers have made it out to be, but frankly, it's nowhere near the level of Hero or other wuxia classics like Swordsman II.

House of Flying Daggers takes places during the tumultious Tang dynasty, when various rebel factions are vying for the control of China. The strongest of these is called Flying Daggers, and two captains (Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) are sent by their commander to capture the Dagger's leader. The duo hatches a plot to capture a beautiful singer named Mei (Zhang Ziyi), who is the daughter of the rebel leader. All seems to be going well with the plan until a series of events happens which test the officers' loyalities to the state and to each other.

The plot won't win any awards for originality, but frankly, most wuxia films use some form of the "rebels verus evil overlords" story. Acting-wise, everyone here does a good job, even if Takeshi Kaneshiro seems to be channeling Ekin Cheng a bit and letting his hair do most of the work for him. Visually and sonically, this is an outstanding piece of work -- Zhang Zimou's movies always look great, and this is no exception. As I noted before, the action is top-notch; Ching Siu-Tung, in my opinion, is criminally under-rated as an action director and his work here (as always) shows how wire-fu should be done.

So why doesn't House of Flying Daggers warrant a higher score? Mostly, it's due to the feeling that there is no real sense of coherency in the film. There are a few too many plot twists that come up simply to move the story along in yet another direction. Specifically, there's a fairly major one near the end that really makes no sense and negates a lot of the character development that proceeded it. Even though the American and Chinese film industries have their share of differences, one thing they have in common is a lack of quality screenwriters, and House of Flying Daggers is yet another movie that shows that. With a bit of tightening, a more streamlined plot, and a smigen less melodrama, this could have been a classic. As it is, House of Flying Daggers is a good film, but don't expect it to be the next Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.

[review from]

Reviewed by: PAUL MARTINEZ
Date: 12/04/2004
Summary: Do Not Compare this to Hero

Before I saw HOFD I heard how this "blows away" Hero from some reviews. Right off the bat I'll tell you that statement is ludacris. This fails horribly in that comparison.

This plot in my opinion was not simple and linear, I actully found it unrealistic and nonsensical. What motive would Andy Lau's character have for sending Takeshi's character on a mission to accompany the blind girl back to the Flying Daggers camp? Just so they could capture him and execute him? He was just soldier, no one important. Yet by doing this they lead the army straight to them? It boggles my mind on what the writer was thinking.

As for the so-called love triangle. To have this you need Zhang Ziyi's character to be torn between both men but she cleary did not show that she had any feelings for Andy Lau whatsoever. She was torn between love and duty to her clan. Andy Lau was just someone with an unrequited love.

The movie was not all bad as Andy Lau gave another fantastic performance and continues to show why he is the best actor in Hk today. Also the cinematogaphy was superb as was to be expected. Simply stunning visuals.

Thje action scenes were OK. A little different than Hero or CTHD. I wasn't overly impressed but not disapointed either.

In my humble opinion this film is just a big box of eye candy. It was given 4 stars for its opening here in the west which astounds me to no end. While not total trash, this movie "aint no Hero".

Reviewer Score: 6

Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 10/24/2004
Summary: Hmmm..........

Well this movie does have the visual colours of "hero" and the flawless acting from it's main stars but there is nothing in this movie which makes it better than any other swordfighting movie. Sure there are twists which are to be expected and some you can guess at,and the action those visually stunning to watch due to the scenery is nothing spectular. The ending, well it just ends whcih disappoints!!

Worth a viewing to see for yourself and see the hype but dont expect too much


Reviewed by: danton
Date: 08/22/2004

I was a huge fan of Zhang Yimou's "Ying Xiong" (HERO) when it came out, so I have been eagerly awaiting a chance to finally get my hands on a copy of his second venture into the Martial Arts genre with "Shi Mian Mai Fu", aka House of Flying Daggers.

But it turns out that despite belonging to the same genre, the two movies really have very little in common: HERO was a much bigger film in every aspect, including budget, cast, sets, and ambition. The movie felt epic in scale, and it certainly seemed aimed at making a grand gesture with its cast of thousands, its compex plot structure, its visual artistry and lastly, its not so subtle political overtones, notwithstanding the controversial nature of the latter.

HoFD, by contrast, is almost a chamberpiece. Everything in this film is reduced in scale: no armies of extras, no elaborate outdoor sets, no high-flying wirefu sequences, and certainly no overt political undertones (at least as far as I could detect). The plot is straightforward and linear, and is focused on an old-fashioned love triangle. In fact, with the exception of one side character (the role of "Da Jie", which I assume is the role that would have been played by Mui Yim Fong, had she not tragically passed away), the movie really only has 3 speaking parts: the 3 protagonists played by Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, and Zhang Ziyi.

Zhang plays a blind brothel dancer who turns out to be associated with the Flying Daggers clan. Andy Lau and Kaneshiro play two police officers who arrest her after she tries to kill Andy Lau. They then cook up a scheme to infiltrate the clan by having Kaneshiro pretend to rescue Zhang from jail, in order to accompany her on her escape. That's pretty much it in terms of plot - Kaneshiro and Zhang flee, fight off pursuing attackers, flirt with each other and then finally arrive at their destination, at which point the plot takes a few twists which I don't want to spoil. A few more fights ensue, blood is shed, and one major character has a tragic end.

That's pretty standard if not banal fare plotwise. The strength of this kind of film, obviously, cannot be reduced to its routine plot elements. It lies instead with the characters and their interaction, the cinematography, and most importantly, with the fight scenes. Unfortunately, HoFD succeeds only on two of these three fronts.

The character interaction and specifically the developing love triangle between the three stars is underwritten in the script. It lacks any significant depth or believability, despite the best efforts of the 3 actors. Zhang in particular alternates between hot and cold, and her ultimate choice seems random and not motivated sufficiently. All in all, I felt less engaged emotionally than I had been with Hero. However, the stars still remain likable and eminently photogenic, so this minor flaw didn't prevent me from still enjoying the film overall.

The cinematography, on the other hand, is as exquisite as expected. The copy I was watching was horrible, but the beautiful compositions of each shot still came through clearly. This is a beautiful film to watch in a very different way than Hero was. Gone is the almost theatrical artificiality signified by the controlled use of colors and by the stagelike film sets. Instead, HoFD features mostly outdoor scenes, with the bamboo forest sequences being a particular standout.

Bamboo forest fight scenes are a staple in these type of films ever since King Hu's A Touch of Zen, and it's difficult to present them with any degree of innovation. Ang Lee tried with some success in CTHD by transplanting the scene above the bamboo canopy. Zhang Yimou, opts to stay mostly on the ground, but still manages to find fresh visuals, especially with a tracking shot of Kaneshiro and ZZ running on the ground whists being pursued by soldiers floating high above them. In fact, there's a lot of shots of people running, which brings me to another major stylistic difference between HoFD and Hero - the fights

In Hero, the fight scenes had a very lyrical quality, emphasizing stillness and the poetry and grace of motion. Not bound by the laws of gravity, fighters were surging through the air and walking on water, displaying superhuman feats of kungfu mastery in an effortless manner. In HoFD, the characters are very much more grounded. While there is occasional wirework, it never becomes the main element in the fights. Instead, Zhang focuses a lot more on a style that emphasizes the actual danger of the situation, with characters running in desparation, and exerting themselves to the point of exhaustion. The fights are still by no means "realistic", nor are they meant to be. There's still incredulible skill on display, especially when the flying daggers come into play, but the overall emphasis on danger and mortality does create a very different atmosphere than what was seen in Hero. It reminded me a bit of the approach Tsui Hark took in The Blade - gritty and dark and more focused on keeping the viewer on edge than on dazzling the audience with lyrical slow motion wirefu ballet.

There's a number of fight scenes in the film, but I found the bamboo forest fight as well as the very first fight in the brothel to be particular standouts. Very satisfying.

Overall, I quite enjoyed the film, and can't wait to see it properly on the big screen when it comes to North America in December.