tek's rating: ½

House of Flying Daggers (PG-13)
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This came out in 2004, though I didn't see it til 2013. It came out two years after "Hero," which, like this movie, was directed by Zhang Yimou (but which I haven't seen yet). Looking back, I recall hearing of this movie and "Hero" not long after the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, so looking up the years each movie came out, I'm a bit surprised that "Hero" came two years after that, and this came four years after it. In any event, I've wanted to see both of Yimou's movies for several years. I still definitely intend to see "Hero" (and some of his other works) eventually. I should also say that I feel kind of guilty about not rating this movie higher than I do, but... as good as it was, it's not something I feel a particular need to ever see again. I'll hold onto the DVD, though, just in case.

Anyway, "Crouching Tiger" pretty much made wuxia films popular in the U.S. (and around the world, I guess), which means... the martial arts we see is often completely unrealistic, but also breathtakingly elegant and awesome. That said... when I watched this movie, I think I kind of had a "been there, seen that" feeling. (Actually, one scene reminded me a lot of a scene from Blood: The Last Vampire, which came out five years after this movie, but which I saw first. Of course it's also possible I've seen similar scenes in other movies, it's really hard to keep track.) Regardless of how original any of the fight scenes may or may not have been, they were still awesome.

As for the story... it's set in the year 859, near the end of the Tang Dynasty. Apparently the government of China had become corrupt or whatever, but the movie doesn't really show anything in the way of politics or how it affects the citizens. So it's kind of impossible to know who to root for. But there's this organization called the House of Flying Daggers, who are outlaws or rebels, who've become beloved by the people, apparently. Anyway, there are two police captains, Jin and Leo (Wikipedia says "Liu," which would make more sense than "Leo," but I gotta go with what the subtitles said). Leo arrests a blind dancer named Mei (Zhang Ziyi), who is suspected of being a member of the Flying Daggers. But Jin breaks her out of prison, and they flee together. Actually, he's just on a mission to gain her trust so she'll lead him to the Flying Daggers, and he occasionally reports to Leo, who's following them. (Leo warns Jin not to fall in love with Mei, though it's entirely predictable that he will.)

And then, perhaps a bit more than halfway through the movie, predictability gets thrown out the window. To be honest, I was never entirely sure whether Jin was just playing Mei, or she was playing him, or what... But in spite of some seemingly predictable things coming to pass, there were any number of plot twists I did not see coming. So I don't want to spoil any of that for you. I'll just say the story turned out to be more interesting than I expected at first, and there was definitely a lot of drama. But I'm not quite sure how to feel about any of it, so I'll just say the movie is worth watching for the cinematography and choreography, and leave it at that.

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