I do like a good western, and I do like a good martial arts movie, so when the two are combined you can imagine I’m delighted!
The Good, The Bad And The Weird tried it a while ago and it had its moments but it definitely had more in common with the latter part of the title! With Let The Bullets Fly we get something much more akin to a western-martial-arts movie.
The movie stars and is directed by Jian Wen who was one of the directors involved in New York, I Love You, along with Natalie Portman and Brett Ratner amongst others.
Wen plays Pocky Zhang, a bandit who arrives in Goose Town acting as the governor alongside You Ge who was also going to act as the governor, both of whom just want money.
When they arrive in the town they find it is run by a local ‘gangster’, Master Huang, played absolutely brilliantly by Chow Yun-Fat.
What ensues is laughs, bullets, romance, one-upmanship, crosses, double-crosses and so much more.
The downsides first: the plot can get a little tangled in itself because of the twists and turns & lengthy dialogue and because there’s quite a few main characters besides Wen and Yun-Fat to keep up with.
Another slight niggle is that it has the feel of Shaolin Soccer in parts, there’s some CGI which isn’t great and there’s some wire-work that’s unnecessary, and the film is a tad too long at 2 hours and 12 minutes.
But, once you get past the first few minutes, which is when the CGI is, then the rewards are great. All actors play their respective roles brilliantly. Chow Yun-Fat is excellent as the bad-guy, evil at times, exasperated at others.
Jian Wen is good as Pocky Zhang but excels in his direction, the cinematography, by Fei Zhao, is truly stunning and Wen plays to it as well as adding comedy when required and action (done the correct way, no shaky-cams here – take note Hollywood!) that gives you a sense of urgency, probably also helped with some first-class editing.
I have, in the past, slammed films where there are many, many writers, I’ve never been convinced it can work, this movie might just be one to prove me wrong though. There were no less than six writers on this movie. Jian Wen was one and Wei Xiao was another, he also plays Seven in the movie, he was also the Assistant Director and guess what? It was the first time he’d done all three!
This is, at the time of writing, China’s highest-grossing domestic film and it’s not hard to see why. It’s a surprise given it’s not an out and out action film, but the performances are excellent, the direction is excellent and, whilst it’s not perfect, it’s one of the best movies I’ve seen for quite some time.