House of Flying Daggers is the next film from director Zhang Yimou, whose Hero opened in the U.S. earlier this year (the DVD came out 3 weeks ago). The two make a great pair of movies. Both are martial-arts historical epics with outstanding senses of color. Both also have strong emotional components, ending with larger-than-life loves driving near-mythical endings. Zhang Ziyi, a slight woman of just 25 years, projects great power on-screen.
PG-13 for martial arts violence, some sexuality
The film’s title refers to the rogue house that hopes to overthrow the corrupt government in an era of Chinese history that, frankly, runs together with the rest of pre-industrial Chinese history for me. And although there are scores of extras — fighters who wield swords, throw daggers, and hurl brutal-looking bamboo spears — the film stays close to the personal story of two refugees, each with a secret that they will not share.
While mainstream audiences seem to think Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is the gold standard for big-budget wire-fu historical epics, I would rank both of Yimou’s martial arts movies above Crouching Tiger.
If you think you might wait for the DVD, don’t! As good as Hero looks on home video, it had noticeably less impact than it did in theaters, and I can only imagine House of Flying Daggers will be the same. See it in a theater on the biggest screen you can find.