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Bullet and Brain
Anthony Wong in Bullet and Brain     Francis Ng in Bullet and Brain

(left) Anthony Wong and (right) Francis Ng are Bullet and Brain.
Chinese: 神槍手與智多星  
Year: 2007  
Director: Keung Kwok-Man
Writer: Wong Jing
Cast: Anthony Wong Chau-Sang, Francis Ng Chun-Yu, Eric Tsang Chi-Wai, Alex Fong Lik-Sun, Tiffany Tang Yan, Wu Qingjie, Liu Yang, Liu Yuanyuan, Yedda Chao, Ma Shu, Mars
  The Skinny:

The latest Wong Jing action flick is too convoluted for its own good. Still, there's some fun to be had, though it leans more to the unintentional kind. At least Anthony Wong and Francis Ng are good.

Kevin Ma:

The last time Eric Tsang, Anthony Wong, and Francis Ng were together was in Infernal Affairs II (McDull The Alumni doesn't count because they didn't share the screen together), a riveting modern crime epic that utilized the three veteran actors to great advantage. However, lest we forget, these actors have been in some real stinkers over the years. Yes, as surprising as that sounds, great actors do make crappy movies, and that happens more than usual in Hong Kong, even if this particular line-up has a good track record. Unfortunately, the team now goes one-for-two with Bullet & Brain, a contrived action flick written by Hong Kong schlockmaster Wong Jing that’s more unintentionally funny than it is cool.

In an anonymous futuristic city, a major crime figure called The Principal (not Alan Tam Wing-Lun) has been betrayed by his underling Winston. Touting the belief that the triad can no longer exist (this is a Chinese co-production, after all), the Principal secretly gives his granddaughter Rain (Mainland newcomer Tang Yan) his bazillion-dollar bank account number and two halves of a torn bill. According to her grandfather, if Rain sends in the two half-bills, it will dispatch the supposedly legendary Bullet and Brain (played by Francis Ng and Anthony Wong, respectively) to the rescue because they owe him a life debt. Her police protector is unfortunately played by idol Alex Fong Lik-Sun, so into the mailbox those bills go.

However, the two heroes have their respective demons. Bullet is still mourning the death of his lover and has promised never to kill again, while Brain regrets that his cheating ways caused the death of an entire family and has promised never to lie again. Nevertheless, Winston is still determined to prevent the notes from reaching the hands of Bullet and Brain, to the point of using a rocket launcher on a poor, defenseless mailbox. Rain manages to get the bills into the mailbox anyway, and Bullet and Brain arrive in a train that looks like a leftover special effect from Silver Hawk. Luckily, Bullet and Brain are played by Francis Ng and Anthony Wong (who didn't return to dub his own voice back in Cantonese), which means they’re a lot better than Gold Label’s favorite Olympic swimmer at protecting Rain. Will Winston be able to fight off Bullet and Brain to get his hands on that bank account number? Will a scheming criminal businessman played by Eric Tsang throw off the heroes’ plans? Does this movie get any better?

The answer to that third question: No. Wong Jing seems to have learned actual screenwriting skills, and uses the obvious trick of laying out clues early on in the film, only to cash in on them later on. However, he also chooses to spell out every single plot point as if the audience may not catch them. What's worse is when the film hits its convoluted finale, everything we know about the characters is suddenly turned upside down into China-friendly territory. In other words, the cops save the day, the good guys remain good and righteous, and the bad guys get their rightful comeuppance. However, Wong Jing’s “clever” plotting opens up a ton of plot holes, despite a contrived attempt at creating something that might surprise the audience and not the Chinese censors. The result is that all the stuff we need to know is left to long verbal exposition at the end, and everything we didn't need to know is told in hackneyed dialogue. In the end, the characters mattered so little that I needed to think for twenty minutes while writing this review to figure out which actor played Bullet and which actor played Brain.

And I still don’t exactly know the difference between what Bullet and Brain do. They both shoot people really well, and that’s the extent of their abilities. Wong Jing chose the three stars to cash in on having really good actors deliver his hackneyed script. This does somewhat pay off, as Anthony Wong and Francis Ng deliver the requisite cool factor to their characters. Also, Eric Tsang thankfully doesn't take his clothes off during his brief but excruciating love scene, and Alex Fong manages to get by without having to exude any nonexistent charm or personality. One can gather from Bullet and Brain that good actors are still good actors even if the movie is bad - and any movie that needs a Flashdance homage to make itself seem sexy is probably a bad movie.

Nevertheless, there's still fun of both the intentional and the unintentional kind to be had in Bullet and Brain, and cinematographer-turned-director Keung Kwok-Man manages to make the film looks as good as its budget will allow. Although it would be easy to mercilessly tear Bullet and Brain apart, that would just be mean. As I mentioned earlier, good actors making bad movies is something that happens quite often in Hong Kong, and Wong Jing making a bad movie is almost a law of nature by now. If a Wong Jing movie can still inspire laughter in a largely empty auditorium, then it has to be doing something right. From now on, perhaps that would be a fair measure for a Wong Jing movie. (Kevin Ma 2007)

Availability: DVD (Hong Kong)
Region 3 NTSC
Kam & Ronson
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Cantonese and Mandarin Language Tracks
Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS
Removable English Subtitles

*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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