August 6, 2011


Before I get to the movie, I just wanted to apologise for the slow down in posts lately: I've been whacked over the head with a gnarly head-cold/man-flu the last couple of days and am trying to rest up, while also catching the films I'm desperate to see and write about.

Coming in at pretty much the exact opposite of Meek's Cutoff, the Chow Yun Fat starring Let the Bullets Fly is an over-the-top Chinese Western gangster kinda film. In 1920's China, a bandit and his gang raid a train that just so happens to be carrying the new Governor of the region. The bandit leader, "Pocky" Zhang, ends up taking the place of the Governor, with his gang in tow, and sets about planning a bit of a "Robin Hood" scam in Goosetown. The local big boss gangster, Huang, is none too happy about this and so schemes and plots ways to bring down the Governor/bandit leader. The two war with one another in the streets of Goosetown, their followers and the townspeople all being caught up in it.

Cow Yun Fat looks to be having a hell of a lot fun playing (for the first time?) a villain; no scenery is safe from the man. His is an over-the-top performance in a totally over-the-top film. He smirks and chats politely, all the while plotting away. And you can see that, in just the way he plays it. It is even more impressive as he is playing a dual role; gang boss Huang and his body double. You can never be sure who is who. Jiang Wen, as Zhang, more than holds his own against Chow Yun Fat. He stomps and blusters about, contriving to act the fool while plotting his next move. Zhang's gang are all charming rogues and by the end of the film, you think of them more as a family than a gang.

The action, much like the dialogue, is fast paced and bombastic. In fact the dialogue scenes, with people snapping back and forth at each other like crocodile jaws, were the highlight for me. When they need to be, they're wickedly fast-paced and every one of the actors plays it perfectly; whether it's straight-faced or with the hint of a smirk. The visual effects work is not always the best (looking a little hokey in places) but, thanks in no small part to the relentless pace and overall charm of the film yyou don't mind so much.

The film is, quite literally, stuffed to the brim with plots, double (and triple) crosses, identity switches and more. These keep you guessing, but occasionally go on a tad too long. There are pacing issues that keep the bullets from truly flying, but this is such a big, brash and boldly stylised movie they kinda get away with it.

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