Let The Bullets Fly
WHAT'S IT ABOUT?
In 1920’s China, notorious bandit “Pocky” Zhang (Jiang Wen), and his gang, rob a train carrying a small-time governor to his new post, in the remote Goose Town. Zhang is convinced by the governor’s aid (Ge You) to travel on to Goose Town, and claim the mantle of governor as his own. Rather than feed on the taxes of the poor and helpless, Zhang instead resolves to rob the shit out of Master Huang (Chow Yun-Fat)- a vicious crime boss who rules Goose Town with an iron fist. At first the two are cordial, but once Zhang’s adopted son is tricked into taking his own life, the battle escalates- and by the time it’s over, it’s anyone’s bet as to who will be left standing.
IS IT A GOOD MOVIE?
LET THE BULLETS FLY is not at all the film I was expecting it to be. I’m a huge Chow Yun-Fat fan from way back, but ever since he went to Hollywood in the late nineties, his film work has lost the edge that made him a legend. As such, his part in LET THE BULLETS FLY is easily his best since Ringo Lam’s FULL CONTACT- with, rather than him essaying the role of Zhang which sounds tailor-made, he takes on the role of the town baddie. As always, Chow is super-charismatic, and seems to be having a ball in what turns out to be a dual role, with him also playing Huang’s none-too-bright double.
But, for me the real find of LET THE BULLETS FLY is Jiang Wen, who also directed. A huge star in China, LET THE BULLETS FLY is nonetheless the first film of his I’ve seen, and I can understand why the guy is such an icon. Like Chow, he’s relentlessly charismatic, macho- and brilliantly straddles the difficult line here between comedy and drama.
Despite the John Woo-like title, LET THE BULLETS FLY is not an action movie- although the Blu-ray cover and trailers would have you think differently. Rather, it’s a ultra-black comedy, with the occasional blast of hyper-stylized violence- but very little actual action. At first, I was a bit taken aback by the tone, but I ended up really enjoying it. The battle of wits between Zhang and Huang is frequently brilliant, and the two seem evenly matched in both smarts and brute strength- even though each is probably too smart to ever have to resort to that. You can sense the growing admiration between the two, and their last scene together is kinda brilliant.
Nada- except a backup, DVD copy of the film. However, Well-Go has released a three-disc special edition, so if you want to go all-out, that's the version to get.
While I still long for a true return to Woo-style action for Chow Yun-Fat (my fingers are crossed him and Woo patch things up- as they’ve reportedly had a tense relationship since Chow backed out of RED CLIFF)- LET THE BULLETS FLY is nonetheless an inspired film-and well worth seeing.