House of Flying Daggers | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

House of Flying Daggers 

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Chinese director Zhang Yimou, whose epic martial-arts adventure Hero (2002) broke through to a mass audience in the U.S. this summer, returns with this small but visually grand drama set during the Tang dynasty. Two of the emperor's police (Takeshi Kaneshiro and Andy Lau) resolve to infiltrate a rebel band called the House of Flying Daggers, and Kaneshiro goes undercover at the Peony Pavilion, where a seductive blind showgirl (Zhang Ziyi) turns out to be a bandit. Their romance and his struggle with honor and shifting loyalties are elemental and artfully drawn, and Zhang weaves in both thrilling martial-arts set pieces and stunning studies of period silk tapestry and costume. The central action scene is a prolonged duel in a dense bamboo forest, where the combatants whiz around from plant to plant, but the most overpowering sequence is Zhang Ziyi's balletic dance for Kaneshiro in a ring of pink brocade. In Mandarin with subtitles. PG-13, 119 min. Century 12 and CineArts 6, Pipers Alley, River East 21.

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