Wednesday, May 25, 2011

LET THE BULLETS FLY - Draggy but Fun

LET THE BULLETS FLY (comedy in Mandarin)
Cast: Chow Yun-Fat, Feng Xiaogang, Jiang Wen, Carina Lau, Ge You, Jun Hu, Chen Kun, Zhou Yun and Miao Pu.
Director: Jiang Wen
Screenplay by: Zhu Sujin, Shu Ping, Jiang Wen, Guo Junli, Wei Xiaon, Li Bukong, from Ma Shitu's novel Ye Tan Shi Ji.
Time: 132 mins
Rating: * * * (out of 4)

Ge You, Carina Lau, Feng Xiaogang and Jiang Wen posing for the camera

PREAMBLE: This is the movie that chalked up a record 700 million yuan (RM350 million) at China's box office recently - a feat that was accomplished by the blockbuster Aftershock just months before. However, before you let your excitement and anticipation work overtime, let me clarify that this mainland China-Hong Kong production is a satirical comedy in Mandarin and if your grasp of Mandarin is not up to par (like yours truly), you may not appreciate most of the verbal gags here as many get lost in translation.

Directed by Jiang Wen, Let The Bullets Fly is both a display of Sichuan-style wordplay as well as spaghetti western-style gunplay. It comes with a hefty dose of CGI and comic book-style narrative.

Chow Yun-Fat and Jiang Wen

SYNOPSIS: Set in China in the 1920s, the movie opens with a spectacular train robbery led by bandit boss 'Pocky' Zhang (Jiang Wen). Conman Ma Bangde (Ge Yu) has just 'bought' the post of governor of Goose Town and he is travelling with his wife (Carina Lau) to con the residents when Zhang and his gang literally derail the train together with his plans.

After negotiating over the situation, the Robin Hood-styled Zhang agrees to play the role of governor, with Ma as his aide, in their bid to take over Goose Town. However, they first have to contend with the town's mob boss Huang (Chow Yun-Fat) in a battle of brains and brawn before Zhang can effectively work his scam as the town governor.

HITS & MISSES: Word has it that the movie script went through 30 drafts and five writers before Jiang Wen was satisfied with it. Well, the proverbial 'too-many-cooks' syndrome certainly shows in its disjointed narrative and over-the-top sequences. I also find that the movie drags a bit, trying to unravel a relatively simple story over more than two hours. However, there is no denying that the proceedings has the pervasive element of tongue-in-cheek fun - generously provided by thespians Chow Yun-Fat, Ge You, Wen Jiang himself and Carina Lau. Indeed, one of the highlights of the outing is the bawdy bedroom repartee between Ge You and Carina Lau that should have the audience roaring with laughter.

Chow has dual roles here - the other as Huang's body-double who is just too stupid to be the impostor - and Chow seems to be having a fine time playing the villain. Indeed, the movie is a great vehicle for the trio (Chow, Ge You and Jiang Wen) to strut their stuff - and for Jiang Wen to poke fun at corruption in political circles, greed and revenge. Well, he also gets to blow things up in spectacular style - and spoof the Sergio Leone and Eastwood flicks. The sets, costumes and cinematography are first class.

THE LOWDOWN: Not as compelling as Aftershock, but fun for Chinese movie fans.



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