The Missing Gun (2002)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2009-11-03
Summary: Strange and uninvovling
“The Missing Gun” takes place in an odd mainland town. Its residents consist of police officer Ma Shan, his family, his friends and his fellow police officers and commanders. The streets, lined with whitewashed stone buildings, are deserted; there is almost no traffic, no pedestrians and no industry or civil government, other than the police. The countryside around the town is even more deserted, a verdant swath of fertile land, carefully cultivated by nobody. Ma Shan chases a thief (both on bicycles) for miles on a perfectly paved road and encounter only one vehicle and a one herd of cows. This is China without people and it isn’t a very interesting place.

This is a shame. Jiang Wen, seen by this reviewer in, among other movies, “Warriors of Heaven and Earth” and “Green Tea”, two very different films in which he gave excellent if contrasting performances, plays the police officer whose gun goes missing. He is the still, calm center around which the rest of the film revolves and he is wasted here. Jiang Wen does an excellent job as Ma Shan but even though he dominates things—he is in almost every scene—there just isn’t enough for him to work with. We don’t know anything more about him at the end of the film than we do at the beginning and aren’t involved in his problem.

Briefly, Ma Shan awakens the morning after a wedding party for this sister and new brother-in-law. He was the host, replacing his dead parents, and was very drunk by the end of the party. He notices almost immediately that his state issued sidearm with its three state issued bullets is missing. This is a disaster of major proportions for him, his family and his superiors. He will, at best, lose his job. His family will lose his income and their stature as the wife and son of a police officer and his station commander and bureau commander will be punished and demoted. He first tries to trace his movements from the night before—where was he sitting, who was sitting next to him, who brought him home, what car was used—but doesn’t get any straight answers, almost as if his friends and family are conspiring to keep the truth from him. Ma Shan then blurts out at the police station house that he has indeed misplaced his weapon and everyone is mobilized to find it, although with no more success than he had working on his own.

The plot, such as it is, congeals when an old lover recently returned from overseas and living in the house of the local capitalist, is found shot dead with a bullet from his gun. It soon become apparent that she was not the target of the shooter, who appeared on a dark and stormy night (I am not making this up) to shoot the wrong person. The mystery is solved eventually when those trying to investigate, a group that now includes Ma Shan’s friends, decide to check with the only person who fits the description of the killer and who has a motive for the attack.

So as a mystery “The Missing Gun” fails completely. It doesn’t work as a melodrama because we aren’t invested in the fate of any of the characters—the tone is so flat that we are no more concerned about the fate of Ma Shan than we are about his commander who is threatened with losing his decorations. And it is impossible to forget that this takes place in an all but deserted village, a place that shouldn’t be on any map and that might as well be a ghost town.

Not recommended
Reviewer Score: 3