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House of Flying Daggers

Year: 2005
Director: Zhang Yimou
Cast: Andy Lau, Ziyi Zhang
No doubt rushed into production after the success of Hero, this is the second of Yimou's signature wu xia style and a companion piece to Jet Li's star vehicle.

It was better than the former in that more credence was given to actual fights rather than displays of ballet (the reason a lot of fans hoping for another Crouching Tiger would have been disappointed), but Yimou still loves long, lingering pauses while a point is steadily made, and the entire movie could have been condensed into about two thirds with no loss of the flow or syntax.

It's also a movie more about the story and action than the poetic visuals. Gone (or at least tuned down) are the completely colour-coded scenes as a professional concubine, Mei (Ziyi) is found working in a brothel and whom the police suspect of being the daughter of the leader behind the dangerous rebellious sect known as the house of Flying Daggers for their ability to throw their signature knives with deadly accuracy.

She's arrested by a constable and then rescued by a drunken customer of the brothel, where they flee into the forests to return her to her people.

Of course, everything's a set-up, and towards the end, multiple levels of deception are peeled back to reveal the truth, but there's been one truth we've seen coming a mile away - the burgeoning attraction between the escapees that threatens the whole plan.

While getting to that point, we're treated to some masterfully choreographed fight scenes (more action based than in Hero) of knife, arrow or swordplay. There's a strong fantasy element as primitive weapons are employed with results deadlier than even modern hand weapons would have trouble achieving, and computer graphics maintains a strong hand in making it all happen.

So all in all it's better than its 'predecessor', but both Ziyi Zhang and Zhang Yimou need a serious talking to about typecasting.

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