A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that this movie is violent. The fight scenes are beautiful but deadly, with graphic injuries and many deaths. There are sexual references and situations including a scene in a brothel and attempted sexual assault. A strength of the movie is its portrayal of women and of Chinese men and women as strong, brave, and loyal.
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What's the story?
In HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS, an officer about to arrest a beautiful blind dancer who works in a brothel tells her that if she can win the "Echo Game" he will let her go. She is surrounded by 100 drums. As the officer tosses stones at the drums, she must listen carefully to replicate the patterns of the sounds through her dance by tossing her long satin sleeves to strike the drums in the same precise rhythms. Her arm sweeps across so that the sleeve extends far enough to pull the officer's sword from its sheath. And then things really start to heat up. In the brothel, a drunken playboy tries to rip the clothes off of the blind dancer, Mei (Ziyi Zhang), but an officer arrives to arrest them both. Mei shows her prowess in the Echo Game, but she is arrested anyway when she attacks the officer. It seems she is an operative for the rebel House of Flying Daggers. She is about to be tortured when she is rescued by the drunken playboy, who tells her he is on her side. They escape together, followed by the soldiers. And like all movie journeys, the characters are on a spiritual quest as they travel. Love and loyalty will be tested and lessons will be learned.
Is it any good?
Director Yimou Zhang (Hero, Raise the Red Lantern) is a master of ravishing, rapturous images drenched with glowing, jewel-like colors, unfurling like a rich tapestry. The fight scenes are dramatic, as much a part of telling the story and revealing the characters as the dialogue and the plot. And they are beautiful, like exquisite blood-soaked ballets.
The confrontations and battle scenes reveal the characters and move the story forward as they dazzle us with breathtaking images and stunning stuntwork. A shower of daggers, a bamboo-forest skirmish that looks like it was choreographed by Cirque du Soleil, and a final encounter in a snow-covered field are striking, moving, and dramatic all at the same time. But the most exquisite image of all is the face of Ziyi Zhang, a brilliant actress, a classically trained dancer, and a fearless combatant. The story may seem unfinished (there is one shot of an advancing army that leaves us wondering what happened next), but ultimately it is as spare and graceful as a calligraphic symbol.
Talk to your kids about ...
- In theaters: December 3, 2004
- On DVD or streaming: April 19, 2005
- Cast: Andy Lau, Takeshi Kaneshiro, Zhang Ziyi
- Director: Zhang Yimou
- Studio: Sony Pictures
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: sequences of stylized martial arts violence, and some sexuality
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