Let the Bullets Fly

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Three of Chinese cinema’s greatest actors converge in this political satire disguised as a 1930s China-set spaghetti western. To flaunt its genre trappings and prove that all revolutions began as unfortunate coincidences, Jiang Wen’s (The Sun Also Rises, Devils on the Doorstep) darkly humorous tale of guns and guts kicks off with a railroad robbery, in which the private train of veteran con-man Tang (Ge You), who is enjoying a meal of hot pot with his capricious wife (Carina Lau), is derailed by the notorious bandit Pocky Zhang (played by Jiang).

For their new venture to scam a huge fortune together, the two head to Goose Town, a desert city overlooked by the powerful mobster Huang (Chow Yun-fat, who also plays Huang’s imbecilic double), posing as the newly installed governor and his right-hand man. But as the craftily material quest turns gory, vengeance is added to the agenda as the three set themselves up for a perpetual cycle of carnage. An acting masterclass throughout, Let the Bullets Fly turns out to be more than just comedy gold: its nifty setting – where foot soldiers are invariably idiotic, and the dodgy protagonists all try to make a bigger buck with the authority they practically bought – perhaps takes a native Chinese to fully appreciate.

Edmund Lee

Dir Jiang Wen, Category IIB, 133 mins, Opens January 13

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