Saturday, April 2, 2011

Let the Bullets Fly is a great eastern western movie

I had a chance to watch Jiang Wen's latest film "Let the bullets fly" yesterday. This is a well written, well directed and well played movie with a great casting. I loved it, it is really hard to not love it. This is actually a Chinese western in genre, and it is full of Quentin Tarantino style dialogues and violence. So well casted that you love all the characters even the warlord Huang. It is a little difficult to understand metaphors, refined satire and dark humor if you do not speak Chinese and follow the movie from sub titles but still it is very entertaining. For Chinese the pleasure is double I guess.

Previously I have only watched one movie of Jiang Wen, Devils on the Doorstep. Devils on the Doorstep is the best Chinese movie I have ever watched up to now (and in my top 20 list). So I was very eager to see Let The Bullets Fly.

The main characters reminded me the trio in spaghetti western classic "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly". Bandit Pocky Zhang (Jiang Wen) is The Good, local mobster Huang (Chow Yun Fat) is The Bad and small-time hustler Tang (Ge You) is The Ugly. But the plot is different here, it basically progresses as an exiting and entertaining chess game between two intelligent and strong man, the mobster and the bandit. In each move the power balance shifts and the tension never decrease to the very end.

-- spoiler --
The story takes place in anarchic days of 1920's China bandit Zhang Mazi (Jiang Wen) meets conman Tang (Ge You) and quickly plans to pretend to be a new mayor to Goose Town to rob the rich for the benefit of the poor. But local mobster Huang (Chow Yun Fat) is a tough enemy to overcome.

-- spoiler --

Behind the entertaining comedy-action script refined satires are burried and even if you are not a Chinese you can feel there is something more in this movie. Yes the hot issue of corruption in China is obvious but there are also subtle criticsms. For example if you feel that the train car pulled by the horses has something to do with Russia (the train car is so Russian) you probably have a point. "Abbreviation of "Marx and Lenin" in Chinese is pronounced "Ma Lie," corresponding to the Chinese pronunciation of "horse and train".[1]

Here is another political message:

At one point, Tang counsels Zhang Mazi that in order to make money as an official, he has to levy taxes on the rich first, so that the rest of the townsfolk will follow. Then he has to return the amount paid by the rich and split the money collected from the poor so that 30 per cent goes to him and 70 per cent goes to the rich. To which Zhang retorts: “Then we’ll be collecting taxes till 2010!” 
Amid comparisons of Let The Bullets Fly to classic spaghetti westerns, there has been much discussion generated among Chinese netizens because of the messages that one can read into the film.[2]
Let The Bullets Fly is a very good movie, do not miss it. And Jiang Wen is a great director and a very good actor. I will now look for his previous movies to watch.

[1] - Fun for Funs Sake? Chinese Film Smash "Let the Bullets Fly"
[2] - Let The Bullets Fly

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