Let the Bullets Fly (2010)
Reviewed by: ewaffle on 2012-12-02
Pocky Zhang Muzhi is a hard working train robber in rural China during the wild and woolly 1920s, trying to make a living by leading a gang of bandits. It isn’t an easy life—he and his gang don’t live very high on the hog and robbing trains is tough and sometimes dangerous work. A case in point is the attempted robbery of the horse drawn train carrying the new governor to Goose Town. Governor Ma Bangde (Ge Yu) has spent all his capital purchasing the right to run Goose Town and is on his way to start cashing in but doesn’t have anything worth stealing. Bandge strikes a deal with Zhang—Zhang will replace him as the new governor-designate Bandge will pretend to be his aide and counselor and keep an eye on his wife (Carina Lau) whose roving eye has landed on the criminal. Zhang can retire from his current, active criminal career and get into a more genteel and not quite so strenuous racket, squeezing tax money and bribes from his constituents.

It isn’t a foolproof plan, however since Goose Town is very tightly controlled by Boss Huang (Chow Yun Fat), a detail that was omitted in the sales pitch to Ma Bandge when he bought his suzerainty from the emperor’s men. Boss Huang is devious, ruthless and insane, involved in human trafficking and opium production, rules with an iron hand and doesn’t hesitate to kill enemies—or anyone he thinks may become an enemy. He has a double whose only function is to get killed if there is an assassination attempt against Huang and is a perfectly venal character.

All three leads seem to be having fun with each other. One doesn’t think of Chow Yun Fat as one who steals scenes since most of the movies he has starred in over the past 25 years were built around his character but in “Let the Bullets Fly” he is so gleefully depraved that he is the center of every scene he is in, even when trading quips or veiled threats with his co-stars. Carina Lau doesn’t have much to do and might have simply been a female topliner in what would otherwise be a testosterone heavy cast.

There are or could be a lot of subtexts and underlying meaning here—a critique of the “let’s get rich now” ethos in China, a not at all veiled attack on the endemic corruption among local and regional officials or a commentary on having an authentic life in a contingent world. The best way to enjoy “Let the Bullets Fly”, though, is to let three great actors and a terrific script work their magic.
Reviewer Score: 9