Review: House of Flying Daggers (十面埋伏) (2004)

Director: Zhang Yimou (張藝謀)
Starring: Takeshi Kaneshiro (金城武), Andy Lau (劉德華) and Zhang Ziyi (章子怡)

Gosh I really love this movie. There are a number of reasons.


In the year 859AD, the Tang Dynasty is in decline. According to the beautifully painted introduction in Chinese, the land is plagued by unrest and the corrupt government is battling rebel armies who have been formed as a protest. The largest and most prestigious of these is the 'House of Flying Daggers' (飛刀門), which is growing ever more powerful under a mysterious new leader.

Two local captains, 劉捕頭 aka Leo (Andy Lau) and 金捕頭 aka Jin (the swoonworthy Takeshi Kaneshiro) are ordered to capture the new leader within 10 days even though the capture of the previous leader took 3 months .......

Accordingly, the two plan an elaborate plan to achieve this objective. There is a rumour that the former leader's blind daughter is in a local dancecall (brothel?) called the "Peony Pavillion". Jin pretends to be a drunken playboy and goes to the Peony Pavillion.

After causing a stir which result in the arrest of the beautiful but blind 小妹 (Xiao Mei) (played by the sultry Zhang Ziyi), he "rescues" her and calls himself "Wind", a lone warrior who admires the House of Flying Daggers and hates the corrupt government.

His task is to earn her trust while escorting her to the secret headquarters of the House of Flying Daggers.

Naturally the two fall deeply in love (or appear to do so) on their long journey to the House.

That being said - the literal translation of the Chinese title "十面埋伏/ Shi Mian Mai Fu" is "Ambushed from 10 directions" and that truly is the fate of these doomed lovers as they are followed by members of the House of Flying Daggers, Leo and government soldiers .......

The music composed by Shigeru Umebayashi is fabulous. 佳人曲 performed by Zhang Ziyi is very provocative and sweet.

Check out the very funny comments at Hole In My Head.

The following extract from "Takeshi Is Hot" is also hilarious although this girl didn't like the movie when I did - but she does love Takeshi ;) I swear I hadn't read her list when I put my list together!!

July 31, 2004

The Funny House of Laughing Giggles

I watched Zhang Yimou's House of Flying Daggers last night against better advice. I decided to watch it because I liked Hero aplenty (except for Tony Leung's really bad hair) despite friends telling me it's really quite bad. How bad can a Zhang Yimou film be? Well...I was stunned into conviction it can be THIS bad.

Here are my random thoughts/unthoughts on the movie (spoilers ahead)

1. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

2. Every frame is like a pretty picture, Zhang Yimou can even enter a few of them to competitions and win. He's meticulous this way, but too much of a good/staged thing becomes a bad thing. Am I watching a movie or watching movie stills?

3. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very very hot. When he flirted with Zhang Ziyi, I had to blush too.

4. There is too much action even before the dialogue is set. It makes the movie rather dull. I mean, Zhang Ziyi dancing - yawn. Them playing that stupid game - yawn. Them fighting elaborately - double yawns. Them fighting like they are dancing tango - double yawns giggles yawns.

5. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

6. The theatre was hilarious too. Ok I admit I was a bad cine-goer last night and spoke incessantly to my sister. Mostly along the lines of "I don't believe it" when the dagger flies so...wunnerfully. But most of the cinema was laughing with me!

7. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

8. My sister and I spoilt the romantic scene between Andy Lau and Zhang Ziyi. Sis spotted Andy LAu's very flawed eyebrows (one higher and shorter than the other) and we giggled throughout the scene. Oops. Hope we didn't spoil the romantic moment for some..What romantic moment?!

9. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

10. Andy Lau and Zhang Ziyi together = Father and Daughter scene. Extremely perversely sick!

11.Takeshi KAneshiro is very hot.

12. One member of the audience had delayed laughter syndrome. It goes like this - the entire cinema laughs - laughter dies down - continues watching movie - lady in audience starts laughing - entire cinema starts laughing AT her. So we were a jolly crowd. And the lady with delayed laughter syndrome is not sis or I.

13. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot, even with blood all over.

14. Final scene is a total blast. Zhang Ziyi took more than 30 minutes to die. And for a while, she could even stand up and kiss The Hot One Passionately, before dying again. Bottom could do better anyday. And lady, just die.

15 The Hot One is very hot.

16. I'm not too sure if Zhang Yimou intended for Andy Lau's character to be so psychopathic but I suspect his acting range was the cause of the psychopathic character being so psychopathic no one can feel any empathy for him.

17. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

18. The final fight scene was supposed to be epic perhaps. But in a wide vast snowfield, two men bobbing up and down for a very long time - very hilarious. And they way the fought - forehead bangs foredhead - very very Mike Tyson.

19. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

20. Howw can a plot that started off quite well, with honour and revenge as its theme, spiral out of control so easily into a story TCS 8 is capable of. Girl meets new guy while in long distance relationship with old guy. Old(ooh pun totally intended) guy returns and turns psycho and kills girl. But repents eventually to show great love and got drunk and walks away into the horizon.

21. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot.

22. Yup. Andy Lau survived in the end. He was supposed to be fatally injured (c.f. long elaborate fight scene) then he walks away into the horizon. I guess Zhang Yimou wanted him to stagger off..but the only kind of stagger he knows is a drunken swagger. So it's really very hilarious. I was laughing hysterically by then.

23. Takeshi Kaneshiro is very hot despite being in stupid movie.

24. I was laughing so hysterically, but Zhang Yimou placed one final joke. As Andy Lau swaggered off, the ENGLISH dramamama opera-like song came on and the entire cinema laughed one last time. Very inappropriate indeed.

25. Takeshi Kaneshiro is the only saving grace in the movie.

26. Sister told me 8 Days gave it 4 stars. Perhaps 8 Days thought it's a comedy.

All in all...a totally hilarious movie quite worth the money cuz I hadn't laughed so hard in a long long while.

But Hero it is not.

Glad that there are other Takeshi fans out there :)

Koala's Review

Why do I love this movie even though everyone else seems to hate it? It has colour, scenery, beautiful colours, beautiful music, wonderful actors and a thrillingly romantic storyline ....

Heavily criticised for a perceived lack of plot and a rather melodramatic and implausible conclusion, I think it is a profound shame to let the rather weak conclusionof the movie spoil the magnificence of the remainder of the movie.

First of all, the relationship between Jin and Mei is extremely convincing. It is very romantic and touching.

You can see the moments where Jin starts to change - when duty becomes something else and he becomes attracted to his alluring charge ....


I didn't know Takeshi Kaneshiro was capable of this kind of role, but he plays Jin perfectly. Fierce, stern, tender and heroic he is able to portray the battle scenes with extreme conviction and sincerity. Kudos to him given that he didn't know how to ride a horse or do the swordplay prior to the film. If you watch the "Making of" documentary, you'll see that his inexperience results in injuries to a number of people - himself included!!!

Then there's Zhangzi Yi. I will be the first to admit I do not tend to like her - but she's so good in this. She sings, she dances, she falls in love and she fights. Through all this, she plays Mei as a tough girl with touching vulnerability beneath it all. When I watched 2046, I thought she was quite good, but it was "House of Flying Daggers" that finally convinced me of her acting talents.

When you see the film, I found it hard not to marvel at the absolutely gorgeous colours and scenes ...

I strongly recommend you see this film. Ignore the bad press, deal with the melodramtic ending ...... it's lots of fun. Click here to read a silly article I wrote. You'll need to have Adobe Acrobat to view it.

8.5 out of 10.

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