Powerful tale of one man who rose against an army in the fight for freedom. When a ruthless enemy force seeks to crush a humble village and seize control, the town's Governor (Chow Yun Fat) witnesses sheer devastation against his people. To stop the bloodshed, the people must rise to battle and start a war. Armed only with their bravery and resilience, they go head to head in an awe-inspiring fight to the bitter end.
Frantic antics with a Marxist message
- Let the Bullets Fly review by Count Otto Black
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Firstly, ignore the synopsis - it was obviously written by somebody who hadn't seen the film.
Moving on to the film itself, it's basically a homage to the classic spaghetti westerns (there's a direct quote from "A Fistful Of Dollars" very early on), including the lesser-known comedic ones. Unfortunately there's one huge problem for non-Chinese audiences, and that's the comedy. The Far East has many cultural differences from the Near West, one of them being the style of humor that is traditionally accepted as being funny. The ridiculous level of overacting would in our culture be amusing to fairly young children but just plain embarrassing for adults, and although I may be missing subtle jokes that were lost in translation, the constant face-pulling, bursting into tears, and sub-moronic idiocy displayed by the supporting cast suggests otherwise.
Chow Yun Fat, an overrated actor whose reputation has more to do with the films he's been in than how good he really is, gives his default performance, suitably dumbed down and camped up, and is out-acted by costar Jiang Wen (who is also the director). The action scenes are nowhere near as numerous or as exciting as you might expect - the "epic" final battle consists mainly of lots of extras with guns running offscreen and presumably defeating several hundred baddies we hear about but never actually see - and are frequently compromised by crude, repetitive humor that jarringly shifts into drama we're supposed to care about with no transition at all. This applies throughout the film; one scene in particular (the one involving jelly) left me utterly baffled as to whether it was meant to be funny or tragic, and just came across as grotesque in the worst possible way.
As for the "everybody pretends to be everybody else" plot, I was both losing track and losing interest by the 10th or 12th time this happened. And the "capitalism is very, very wrong" message isn't a subtext, but a thuddingly clunky bit of propaganda so blunt that the hero seems to be overwhelmed by an obsessive-compulsive desire to redistribute wealth not unlike that of the Monty Python highwayman who steals lupins, while failing to do obvious things to the point where it has to be lampshaded by having other characters point this out (and getting a Marxist homily for their trouble).
If you want to see a recent genuinely action-packed pseudo-spaghetti western from this part of the world which sometimes gets a bit silly, watch "The Good, The Bad, And The Weird", which beats this film on every count other than not being quite as pretty. And if you want to see a movie of this type with Marxist underpinnings done properly, watch "A Bullet For The General", or quite a few other spaghetti westerns from the sixties and seventies, including most of Sergio Corbucci's output. But give this a miss.
Supposedly China’s biggest grossing film ever Let the Bullet’s Fly already had quite a lot to live up to when my backside hit the theatre seat. The movie stars the infamous Chow Yun-Fat as a tyrannical local landowner and general big wig who finds himself on the wrong end of a Robin Hood-esque narrative when bandit “Pocky” (played by director Wen Jiang) comes to town posing as the new mayor, seeking revenge for his son’s death.
The story practically tells itself from this point, but thankfully director/star Jiang wields a camera well and the script sparkles with the occasional comedy gem, making this a fairly enjoyable and fun movie. The bullets do most certainly fly, and in typical, over dramatic and overly stylized fashion, but it would not be a modern action movie without it surely?
Did I say modern, let me correct myself there, one of the things I loved most about Let the Bullets Fly is the fabulous 1920’s setting, and for other lovers of all things vintage Jiang has done a pretty good job of painting a picture of 1920’s China.
To be frank the most interesting aspect of Let the Bullets Fly is the political power struggle that plays out between the two main characters, not because it happens in a particularly inventive or satirical fashion but because of the tongue in cheek context of the movie; released at the height of political fever in Singapore last year the movie makes a few snide jabs at the political system, which for Western audiences is bound to tickle a few funny bones when compared to the current on edge state of pre-election America.
Beyond that though I really can’t understand what made this movie so popular; it’s intriguing, funny and action packed but with Hollywood classics like Die Hard floating around that’s not really a huge task these days. It is nice to see an Asian action movie that isn’t all graceful choreography, swords and cherry blossoms but honestly I don’t really see what all the fuss is about.