Zany Chinese Western
Dec 12, 2012
Review by Stephen Murray
Rated a Very Helpful Review
User Rating: Excellent
Pros:cast, wit, action
Cons:long and involved, hard to keep up with subtitles (and plot twists)
The Bottom Line: Bullets fly, but so do dialogue lines!
I thought "The Good, The Bad, and the Weird" was better/funnier.
Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.
Recommend this product?
“Rang zidan fei” (Let the Bullets Fly, 2010) is a spaghetti western comedy (of sorts) that is the highest-grossing in China Chinese movie ever. It is set in western (or at least interior) China, ca. 1920, the eighth year of the Republic of China, a government that did not have control over much of the country. Master Huang (Chow Yun-Fat in a comeback, back in China from indifferent Hollywood movies) doesn’t seem like a warlord, though he has a gang that has cowed the populace of Goose Town.
Before we see him, we see a luxurious train with a carload (20?) of rifleman that is carrying the new governor Tang (Ge You) to his new post along with his wive (Carina Lau). The train is spectacularly (somersaulting through the air) derailed by bandits headed by “Pocky: Zhang (the movie’s director Jiang Wen).
The only survivors of the trainwreck are Tang, who says that he was the counselor to the new governor rather than the new governor, and the latter’s (pretend) widow. “Pocky” decides to take the letter of appointment to Goose Town and take up the position of governor there… with the governor’s wife now his wife and Counselor Tang less than pleased when his wife urges the new governor/husband to exercise his conjugal rights.
“Pocky” is dismayed to learn that all the wealth is concentrated in the hands of Master Huang and two other prominent families. They are already squeezing blood out of rocks, so there is nothing for the new official (old bandit).
Most of the movie is a war of wits between Pocky and Master Huang, involving a fair bit of violence, but not as much gunfire as the title would lead one to expect. Chow Yun-Fat has the flamboyant part. Jiang Wen’s Pocky is more or less the straight man to Master Huang’s antics and to the devious maneuverings of “Counselor” Tang playing both sides for his own perceived benefit. Chow Yun-Fat also plays the double of Master Huang, doubling his fun discomfiting the new governor.
Jiang directed the gruesome WWII drama “Devils on the Doorstep” (Guizi lai le, 2000), which could be viewed as a very dark comedy, but which provided no inkling of a talent for either the witty repartee or slapstick comedy of a very exuberant kind. “Bullets” is much more like Korean director Kim Ji-Woon’s hilarious and violent “The Good, the Bad, the Weird.” I’d say both have some DNA from Sergio Leone’s “Duck, You Sucker” (also known as "A Fistful of Dynamite"). The grifter siding with the downtrodden masses is particularly a continuity between “Duck” and “Bullets.” Leone did not have anyone like Lau in that movie, though he had Claudia Cardinale coming out on top in the great “Once Upon a Time in the West” (a movie with some comic elements, though far fewer than “Duck”).
There’s lots of action, but there is also a lot of fast-flying dialogue. If I had not been watching it with someone schooled in Mandarin, I would have changed to the English-dubbed track, and someone who does not read fast will have trouble keeping up with the subtitles (and, thus, the many, many twists and turns of the plot with each side recurrently posing as the other with masks…). As it was, I didn’t have the leisure to try to see if Chow Yun-Fat’s Mandarin was dubbed.
By the end of the movie’s 132 minutes, I was exhausted from trying to follow the plot and the dialogue.
I’d be hard-pressed to decide whether Ge You or Chow Yun-Fat is the hammiest (both playing double roles in effect), the ham is choice in both cases.
Zhao Fei — who shot several Woody Allen movies (including "Sweet and Lowdown"), as well as "The Horse Thief," "Raise the Red Lantern," "The Emperor and the Assasin," and "Warriors of Heaven and Earth" — won the Golden Horse for cinematography for his work on "Bullets."
There is a collector’s edition with bonus features, which tempts me to lower my rating. The standard DVD only has trailers for future Well Go releases.
©2012, Stephen O. Murray
Thanks to Mona for adding (yet another!) DVD to epinions' database.
Viewing Format: DVD
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