House of Flying Daggers appears at first to be another visually stunning, action-packed hit of Chinese cinema. Suffice it to say that the previews were very misleading. HOFD is nowhere near as visually dramatic as Hero. It is nowhere near as packed with action as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and it suffers from a series of unforgiveable maladies.

First, the focus is very poor. I am not sure if it is a technique they are using to make it look more like a 70’s film or if possibly the process of transfering from original stock to final cut lost a lot of the sharpness. In addition, the colors are waaay bled out. It goes beyond a simple bleach technique or some of the things done to give a film a particular “feel.” The color palette jumps around haphazardly – often within the same scene. I think they attempted to try to duplicate the visual magic of Hero and really didn’t know how. Also, the story is terrible. It is misleading, there are large holes in the logic, and it is mostly uninteresting. The movie quickly turns into a convoluded love story which steals every Hollywood romantic cliche – the problem is that all of them have been done better.

The film boasts three excellent lead actors and had they been in someone else’s hands – I feel sure they could turn out a brilliant film. Takeshi Kaneshiro as Jin was a fun character that was never fully developed. Ziyi Zhang as Mei is stunning and deserves a better script and director. Andy Lau‘s skills were wasted on the cardboard character, Leo.

Don’t waste your time on this one.

RATING 4 out of 10