Let the Bullets Fly Blu-ray Review
Directed by Jiang Wen
Written by Jiang Wen
2010, 135 minutes, Region A, Rated R
Blu-ray released on April 24th, 2012
Chow Yun-Fat as Master Huang
Feng Xiaogang as Counselor Tang
Jiang Wen as Pocky Zhang
Ge You as Ma Bangde
Chen Kun as Hu Wan
You would think that the highest grossing domestic film in the annals of China's storied cinematic history — a western flavored gangster flick set in 1920s China — with a title of Let the Bullets Fly and starring Chow Yun-Fat would be an absolute win-win for all involved. In my mind, I was already envisioning a completely bad-ass historical Chinese-inspired version of Smokin’ Aces by way of Yojimbo, with over-the-top stylized violence, and a body count stacked higher than the Great Wall. Unfortunately, I came away from this utterly disappointed.
The premise is sound, a genuinely kind-hearted and honorable rapscallion of a bandit (think an older Asian Han Solo) impersonates a Governor (in this context, this title is more akin to a Sheriff) of a rural Chinese town. His presence raises the ire of the malevolent local crime boss (Chow Yun-Fat) which sets off a domino effect of political maneuverings, deceitful dealings, assassination attempts, and cunning banter between these two individuals.
At 135 minutes, this movie would have greatly benefited from a more economical run time. Apparently there were upwards of thirty re-writes to this script, and because of that the plot is often murky and muddled, with confusing and unnecessary plot twists that take you out of the experience. Luckily, the film is gorgeous (save for a few awful scenes of horrendously rendered CGI) to look at, so even when you are sitting there without a clue as to why that one guy is doing that thing to that other guy, you can at least sit back and admire the scenery.
Sure there are a few decent gun battles, but the overall underlying slap-stick tone of the film does not work. I wanted these excellent actors, in this amazing setting, to unleash complete fucking fury on each other without mercy. However, due to the confusing plot and unrelenting shtick, Let the Bullets Fly comes across more Benny Hill than John Woo, squandering undeniable talent, beautiful cinematography, and a good premise that should have delivered in spades. But who am I to tell 1.5 billion Chinese people that they’re wrong?
Video and Audio:
The picture is crisp, bright, clean, without much — if any — artifacting. There is something about ancient China and 1080p that just work so well together. The DTS-HD 5.1 audio track is also excellent. Your surrounds will get a nice little workout with the bullets flying around, too bad there just wasn’t more of them.
There aren’t any in this version. Evidently there is a Collector’s Edition available that has an hour of bonus materials, but after already investing a lackluster 135 minutes of my life into this film, I was totally fine that I wasn’t privy to the lengthier version.
*Note: The screenshots on this page are not a reflection of the Blu-ray image. They were captured using the standard DVD.*