Are you a fast reader? I know this is a funny question to pose toward film-goers, but it’s an important one. Not your typical action movie, Jiang Wen‘s Let The Bullets Fly presents more conversational contention than literal bloodshed. While there is a fair amount of people getting shot, the real action comes in the dialogue between legendary bandit “Pocky” Zhang Muzhi (Jiang Wen) and wealthy crime lord Master Huang Fox (Chow Yun-Fat.) The rate at which these two fire proposals and rebuttals will challenge your sub-title reading speed.
The plot consists of Pocky and his gang (all given numbers 1-7 as aliases) robbing a train transporting a governor on his way to Goose Town and instead of taking the governors’ money, Pocky essentially steals the governorship and begins his reign. From here it’s very Robin Hood-esque; Pocky and his gang steal from the rich and spread the wealth among the poor, meanwhile planting seeds of discontent among the citizens in hopes that they will rise against their ruler Huang Fox. There are lots of characters and it can be easy to get lost if you don’t pay attention.
I was expecting a high-octane, over the top action movie, but the quick, witty dialogue eclipses the action sequences in terms of attention given. I’m all for good dialogue especially in movies dealing with subterfuge, but there came a point where I just wanted someone to flip over a table and let the bullets fly. There is almost too much talking. The one main action sequence is great and the gangs’ method of communication is very cleaver; I just wanted more of that! Maybe some of my disappointment comes from me expecting non-stop action, but come on, with a name like Let the Bullets Fly, can you blame me?
If you want a politically charged black comedy/smart action movie, you could do a lot worse than Let The Bullets Fly; It’s stylized, beautiful at moments, and features great performances across the board. Just don’t think of it as a typical action movie first.
“Everyone is born sincere and die deceivers.” -Marquis De Vauvenargues