I don’t think it’s unfair to compare all subsequent Chinese fantasy films to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon considering how massive an impact it had on the genre. Basically everything afterwards is a variation on a love triangle in ancient China followed by tons of wire-fu all set against gorgeous backdrops while a haunting score plays.
Actually, that pretty much sums up every epic film made around the world since the beginning of the 20th century.
House of Flying Daggers kicks off with a bang when a detective is called to a local whorehouse where another detective has been thrown out for getting too rough with the women. One woman in particular is pulled forward and shown off to the detective. The woman, played by Ziyi Zhang, is blind but can hear a pin drop across the room. The resulting dance she performs is a mind-blowing example of choreography, special effects, music, and a hot chick at the center of it all.
Essentially, the scene is the perfect combination needed to win my heart were it not about to repeat itself for the following two hours.
From there, the film follows the blind woman as she leads the detectives closer to an elusive gang known as the House of Flying Daggers, assassins whom the emperor would like very much to see extinguished. This being a film about Chinese mythology, everything is lovingly photographed so much so it is easy to forget the rather slight narrative and focus instead on the visuals, which are stunning throughout.
I’d say I was tired of seeing the same thing over and over but in this day and age it’s not so much about the originality of the story itself as it is the telling of the story. I’m convinced that the only films China allows to be shot have a message at their core of unity to the emperor, thus to China itself. This is definitely one of those and I’d knock it harder for being so self important if it wasn’t so blasted beautiful to look at.
It took me about an hour longer than it should have to get through it simply because I kept getting bored. When I would come back there would be a gorgeous shot of the landscape followed by a cool fight followed by a lot of down time where everyone searched their feelings about each other before launching into another mystical fight.
Rinse and repeat for almost two and a half hours and that’s House of Flying Daggers in a nutshell. If that sounds like your bag, then go crazy.