Contributed By Raymond Tan
This past year has seen enough of Chinese films featuring a heavy-handed treatment of political themes—the Ip Man franchise and recent martial arts blockbusters like Detective Dee and Shaolin, while entertaining with their well choreographed fight scenes, are also suffocating with their overwrought directing and nationalistic elements.
So, it’s timely that a wacky film like Let The Bullets Fly comes along. Jiang Wen, who wears three hats here as director, writer and actor, gives the Western an Oriental twist.
A rip-roaring, dizzyingly exciting sequence opens the film, where a train carrying new county governor Ma Bangde (Feng Xiaogang), his wife (Carina Lau) and personal advisor/professional swindler Tang (Ge You) is hijacked by notorious bandit Pocky Zhang (Jiang). Tang ends up dead in the aftermath and Ma, who bought the position of mayor of Goose town, steals Tang’s identity to avoid being killed. Zhang himself takes over as mayor and cheats the townsfolk to make a quick buck. Needless to say, his arrival is not welcomed by ruthless local mobster Huang (Chow Yun-fat). The two try to outwit each other, resulting in much action and hilarity.
One might think the hallmarks of the Western film genre—the blazing gunfights, rapid-fire dialogue, hard-boiled protagonist with a heart of gold—might have nothing to do with the sprawling land and history of China, but Jiang successfully transposes those elements into an Oriental setting. That said, some of the political metaphors and jokes might be difficult to grasp if one is not familiar with the mainland culture. Overall, the film is wildly hilarious but not senseless, filled with anarchic energy while staying coherent, and is both an entertaining and a smart watch.