Sometimes I get stuck in a rut when it comes to watching films. I either just watch anything that comes…
Let the Bullets Fly
A comic western legend
Set in China during the Warlords Period of the1920s, notorious bandit chief Zhang descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor, an identity that he had hijacked from Old Tang, himself a small-time imposter. Hell-bent on making a fast buck, Zhang soon meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang as a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues.
I got to say this film was pretty great. I loved the way it was almost like a western set in China. Even though I didn't watch this with the best video quality I could still see just how amazing the scenery and setting was. I can just imagine if I watched this on a HD tv with Blu-ray I would be blown away. The setting in China and the time period were both pretty new settings for me when it comes to film and so that really helped to pull me into the film more and made it more immersive.
Now with a title like Let the Bullets Fly it is easy to assume that this is almost like…
Watching a foreign comedy can be a tricky prospect since comedy is often difficult to translate. Most Hong Kong comedies I've seen have been largely slapstick, so this isn't really an issue, but Let the Bullets Fly is a lot more sophisticated, with wordplay and satire and presumably a bunch of historical and cultural references that flew over my dumb head.
It's still pretty entertaining though - especially fun is Chow Yun-Fat as a grinning villain. Also the action scenes were pretty cool (although you could make the argument that there wasn't enough of them).
I had to go back and adjust my top 10 of 2010 for this one.
The film opens with an eagle soaring above train tracks, in what seems an explicit nod to Jee-woon Kim’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird, and this cue threw me off a bit. Bullets *is* like that earlier (wonderful!) film an extravagant near-absurdist operatic western. But its homage is less on the action end, ‘though it features many showoff set-pieces and a ludicrous quantity of bullets (flying). It’s more opera. And Chinese Opera. Its influences aren’t so much action cinema as the satire of villainy and come-uppance. It’s got a sensibility steeped in Tsui Hark, in quasi-fables, in Kurosawa’s Yojimbo. So it took me…. oh, fifteen, twenty minutes before getting the film’s sensibility straight; assuming I was going to see outsized, well-choreographed violence, but instead seeing outsized, well-choreographed exaggerated performances. Chow Yun-Fat has glorious fun as the baddie (and as a beleaguered body-double), and Jiang Wen is perfect in the Mifune role. Fun.
It's glorious. Like watching Toshiro Mifune outsmart baddies again, in Tarantino style.
"Let the Bullets Fly" is hilarious. But it's hilarious at 100 miles an hour, with the revelations and twists happening at such a dizzying pace that it's easy to get lost. Watch it with friends, as I did, so you can help each other out if things get complicated. Everything here works: The cast is first-rate, the special effects are sharp and spectacular, the dialogue is wonderfully witty. If Tarantino and the Coen Brothers ever teamed up, and if they brought out the best in each other, it might end up something like this. It's like "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" meets "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" with plenty of "Pulp Fiction" and "True Grit" thrown in. Chow Yun-Fat and Wen Jiang are so much fun onscreen together, you'll wish DeNiro and Pacino could have faced off onscreen like this in their prime. It's on Netflix Instant. Don't miss it.
Entertaining action satire driven by its writer/director Jiang Wen who turns in a heroic performance equal of any western blockbuster icons. It flips from absurdity to action but never loses sight of the political corruption narrative that's at the heart of the film establishing that no matter what the system, the people at the top will stop at nothing to protect their own greed.
If Tarantino made an Asian Western.
Let them fly indeed. Definitely need a second viewing with this picture. So dense, many layers from dialogue and staging to action and comedy. Social satire elements seem ripe, but would need a better grounding in contemporary Chinese issues. The film can most certainly be enjoyed without that context, which is probably why censors did not ban the film during its domestic release.
Love Wen Jiang! Cannot wait for your next picture.
Wen Jiang manages to tell a very sharp fable of greed with a comedy tone, all this while pleasing mainland censors. It's tricky, but he manages to overcome genre conventions and take a good stab at maindland China itself in the process.
LET THE BULLETS FLY accomplishes what many American satires try and fail to do, which is to satirize a target while also delivering a satisfying narrative. It’s a political satire, critiquing current Chinese government practices as well as the original Maoist revolution, but it also satisfies the contours of a successful narrative divorced from its satire. As a Mainland Chinese film, writer, director and star Jiang Wen gets away with his critique by disguising it as a gangster epic about a mountain bandit pretending to be the governor of a small town ruled by a ruthless gangster.
Jiang pulls off a delicate balancing act with LET THE BULLETS FLY. He has never openly stated his film is a satire, but…
Saw it at Fantastic Fest 2011
Is a western movie taking place in china. Chow Yun Fat is so crazy he might as well be playing daffy duck
Well crafted with some nice character moments but as a whole too long, nonsensical and self indulgent. Probably has more depth than I'm aware of.
There seemed to be a lot going on I didn't get, definitely a case where subtitles reach their limit.
Wen Jian is very cool and the bird whistle attack bit was fantastic.
I had to go back and adjust my top 10 of 2010 for this one.
- Miller's Crossing
- Army of Shadows
- Boudu Saved from Drowning
- Millennium Mambo
- Oxhide II
- Running on Karma
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