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House Of Flying Daggers (original title: 十面埋伏) is a Wuxia movie directed by Zhang Yimou and released in 2004. Zhang had previously directed another Wuxia flick, Hero, and wanted to explore the genre further. He would later direct Curse of the Golden Flower.
The story, set in the waning days of the Tang Dynasty (9th century CE), depicts a love triangle between two soldiers and a young woman suspected of being an agent of a secret society, the titular House of Flying Daggers.
Contains examples of:
- Action Girl: Mei.
- Alternate Character Interpretation: On the DVD commentary, Zhang Yimou and Zhang Ziyi offer different interpretations on a certain action from the climax.
- Arrow Cam: Arrow-cam, knife-cam, bean-cam...
- Audible Sharpness: All over the place.
- Author Existence Failure: After Anita Mui's death, Zhang Yimou felt that recasting the role would be disrespectful, so the film's second half was heavily rewritten to downplay her role of the Flying Daggers' leader.
- Completely Different Title: The original title translates as Ambush From Ten Directions.
- Conservation of Ninjutsu: Averted somewhat. Anybody fighting 4 or more Mooks needs to get bailed out (usually Just in Time).
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: The final fight from a choreographic and acting standpoint as well as in-universe. It's hard to surpass the sheer hatred and brutality displayed, and done with a minimum of gore.
- Distressed Damsel: Surprisingly Mei. She's nearly raped by Jin in the first 5 minutes, rescued by Jin several times, etc.
- Downer Ending: Poor, poor Mei...
- Duel to the Death: Jin and Leo. Ironically, neither die.
- Elite Mook: Practically everybody is insanely skilled. Even random unnamed soldiers are so good they can build a cage with thrown bamboo rods.
- The Empire: The Tang Dynasty.
- Flechette Storm: The flying daggers. Also, a bunch of cut bamboo.
- Gray and Gray Morality: There isn't much to tell one side from the other in terms of ethics.
- Hot Chick with a Sword: Mei.
- I Am Not Left-Handed: Mei is not blind.
- Impractically Fancy Outfit: Mei's dancing girl outfits.
- La Résistance: The House of Flying Daggers.
- Love Ruins the Realm: Referenced in-story by Mei's song.
An extraordinary beauty in the North
The most beautiful being in the world
With her first glance she submits a city
With her second glance she ruins an empire
But there is neither empire nor city
That we can laud more than this beauty
- Love Triangle
- Made of Iron: The only explanation for the absolutely insane resistance to injury Jin and Leo seem to display: to wit, Leo taking a dagger through the back and the multitude of wounds they inflict on one another during the final fight.
- The Mole: Leo.
- Obfuscating Disability: Mei
- Offscreen Moment of Awesome: The final showdown between the army and the rebels remains entirely offscreen.
- Also, once it's revealed that Mei isn't really blind, we never get to see her cut loose in a fight (since she doesn't need to fake any kind of helplessness anymore).
- Only a Flesh Wound: Zig-zagged furiously at the ending. Leo is hit in the back with an non-fatal Flying Dagger, is told to go back to his position as a guard (and that the dagger will make his story more convincing), and it doesn't seem to bother him at all, including when he kills Mei with a dagger to the heart. After Jin returns for her, he finds her just fading away, and Leo attacks him. While they fight and cut each other to ribbons, she wakes up, just when Leo pulls the knife out of his back to throw at Jin. She says that if he does, she'll pull the knife out of her heart to kill Leo. Jin points out that if she does, she'll bleed out and die. Leo pretends to throw his knife, she throws hers to block his, and dies. Leo staggers away while Jin holds her in his arms.
- Outdoor Bath Peeping: Jin peeps on Mei as she bathes in a pond. She's aware of it but doesn't mind.
- The Plan: Mei's capture and escape were part of a convoluted plot to bring about a massive showdown between the loyalist forces and those of the House of Flying Daggers.
- Pinball Projectile
- Pyrrhic Villainy: Arguable about the villainy considering the Gray and Gray Morality, but Leo accomplished his mission to perfection, but still lost everything along the way and wound up killing the person he loved most.
- Rule of Cool: the titular "flying daggers," which at times pull dramatic u-turns in mid-air.
- Scenery Porn: Zhang Yimou's signature style is an overload of lush backgrounds, to the point of chromatic saturation.
- She Fu: Mei is yet another Zhang Ziyi Badass.
- Snow Means Death
- Sweet Polly Oliver: Mei dresses up as a boy warrior after her escape from jail.
- The Ending Changes Everything
- Talent Double: Zhang Ziyi does much of her own dancing, but all of the leaps and acrobatic stunts in the Echo Dance are performed by a double.
- Tragic Hero: All the heroes are this in one way or another.
- Waif Fu: Zhang Ziyi has made a good living playing Badass chicks while weighing about 95 lbs.
- Why Did You Make Me Hit You?: Slight variant, with Leo yelling at Mei, after throwing a dagger into her chest, claiming flat-out that she made him kill her, due to her new found love for Jin.
- Wire Fu: Every single fight.
- Wuxia: Rivals Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.