Forget Hero — that cult hit was just Zhang Yimou's warm-up for this martial-arts fireball that throws in a lyrical love story, head-spinning fights and dazzling surprises. Two Tang Dynasty officers — pretty-boy Jin (Takeshi Kaneshiro) and rough-hewn Leo (Andy Lau) — try to trick Mei (Zhang Ziyi), a blind dancer, into leading them to the Flying Daggers, a group of insurgents. Jin and Mei fall in love while Leo simmers with unrequited lust. The director of Raise the Red Lantern, a former insurgent himself in China, proves himself a poet of bamboo-forest fights and duels in the snow that could make a tiger crouch. Prepare your eyes for popping. And don't be fooled by Zhang Ziyi's delicate beauty — this babe can kick your ass.
From The Archives Issue 266: June 1, 1978