Connect with us


Let the Bullets Fly | Review

A light and breezy genre informed exercise.

The Western genre makes a fine template, and fortunately for Let the Bullets Fly, is a stylized format still virile enough to reel in the masses, as it has become the highest grossing Domestic release in China, as of last year. The fourth feature film from director Jiang Wen (best known for his 2000 film Devils on the Doorstep) infuses samurai inspired comedy with classic Western flairs like train robberies, crime lords, and the oppression of small town communities in need of new law. For the most part, it’s an entertaining effort worth the rather lengthy running time.

Set in 1919 rural China, a legendary bandit known as Pocky Zhang (Jiang Wen) stages a train robbery thinking he’ll aquire a great deal of silver. Instead, he finds Tang (Ge You), an unassuming con man on his way to Goose Town to begin his new role as governor, a position he has purchased. In order to spare his life, Tang hatches a scheme to give Pocky his identity so that he may pose as the governor of Goose Town. Tang explains that life as a corrupt politician is where the money’s at. Without further ado, the bandit gang heads to Goose Town, with Tang and his wife (Carina Lau) in tow. But upon arriving in town, they quickly discover that a wealthy crime lord, Master Huang (Chow Yun-Fat) actually controls the city. Tang explains that the governor’s role has always been to split the goods with crime lords, tax the wealthy, then tax the poor exorbitantly to return the money to the wealthy. Pocky, however, doesn’t agree and refuses to steal from the poor. As Master Huang senses a threat to his wealthy empire, the two vicious leaders face off in a series of manipulative encounters, with Tang trying to play both sides.

While Let the Bullets Fly has several moments of jarring violence (not to mention a scene involving intestines that would be at home in a Takashi Miike film) it’s really more of a silly, comedic exercise, perhaps with one too many ludicrous tricks up its sleeve. We get the sense that it’s trying to be a black comedy, but there’s simply too much foolishness in the way of developing any kind of vicious tone.

After the set-up, most of the film consists of Huang and Pocky retaliating at each other’s forces, with Huang always dancing around the possibility of discovering Pocky’s true identity. After several turns of this (and sadly, some poor special effects in a number of the action sequences) the film loses a bit of steam, leading to an unenthralling climax. Though Carina Lau is underutilized, the three male leads are all quite engaging. In particular, Chow Yun-Fat is quite entertaining as the lascivious, manipulative crime lord. Overall, Let the Bullets Fly is an entertaining and mostly engaging entry from an intriguing director.

Rating 3 stars

Continue Reading
You may also like...

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2021: France (Bruno Dumont), Passing (Rebecca Hall) and Nightmare Alley (Guillermo Del Toro). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

Click to comment

More in Reviews

To Top