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The Golden Rock - Let the Bullets Fly Edition

Thanks to the good people at Emperor Pictures, I was able to watch a “99% finished” version of director Jiang Wen’s LET THE BULLETS FLY. The film opened yesterday in China, but the HK print wasn’t, probably because it was to get the subtitles done and get it screened for local censorship authorities (It got a IIB rating, by the way). The film was essentially in mono, and some effects weren’t done yet (maybe some rough edits need as well). Nevertheless, it was pretty presentable anyway.

A manly Mainland Chinese movie could not ask for a better leading cast than what actor-director Jiang Wen has for LET THE BULLETS FLY, and the three men could not ask for a better script, either. Written by six credited writers (and probably a few more uncredited ones), LET THE BULLETS FLY is a sensational, hilarious crowdpleaser made even better if you speak Mandarin.

 

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Photo courtesy of Emperor Motion Pictures

Based on a novel, it seems like Jiang’s starting point was from the popularity of the Korean Kimchi Western THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE WEIRD, but Jiang managed to make his film, about a battle of wits between a righteous bandit (Jiang Wen himself), a town ruler (Chow Yun Fat, hamming it up), and a corrupted in between (Ge You) something entirely different. Packed with speedy dialogue exchanges, a whole lot of gunfire, and tons of dark humor (even the brutal violence is played for nervous giggles), the film speeds through its 132 minutes without a single wasted moment. The game is long and twisty, but it’s consistently inventive. The film may be sold as an action film, but it’s actually one of the funniest movies of the year.

 

LET THE BULLETS FLY may also be Jiang’s most commercial film, playing the comedy at multiple levels. Even though the subtitles, which have no grammatical problems whatsoever, can’t effectively carry the Mandarin wordplay, Jiang also fills the film with plenty of surreal visuals. It’s refreshing to see a commercial film that plays so well to the masses without having to dumb itself down. The script is consistently smart, packed with sly political/social satire and witty bantering that sadly will not carry to a non-Mandarin-speaking audience (The HK audience I saw it with had problems catching up at points).

 

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Photo courtesy of Emperor Motion Pictures

 

If there’s one notable weakness with the film, it’s the lack of an emotional core. The friendship that grows between Jiang Wen’s “Good” character and Ge You’s “Ugly” character is the most developed relationship in the film, but it’s still played for laughs through most of the film. Jiang Wen treating the entire movie as one big dark comedy will probably not sit well with some, but it’s also so well done in other aspects that it probably won’t matter once you’re along with the ride.

 

Some who read my reviews may think that I’ve turned into a big grinch who doesn’t like anything I watch (at least anything from China). Here’s a perfectly fine commercial film that I DO like. The best Mainland Chinese film I’ve seen all year may still be APART TOGETHER (though it was never released in China), but I can say LET THE BULLETS FLY is the best Mainland Chinese commercial film I’ve seen all year, if not one of the best Chinese-language films of the year.

I still don’t like AFTERSHOCK, though.

 

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Photo courtesy of Emperor Motion Pictures

Again, my thanks to the people at Emperor Motion Pictures. I am still highly appreciative, regardless of the film’s quality.

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