Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let The Bullets Fly

I haven't seen Chow Yun Fat since he was in Shanghai. The slightly ponderous John Cusack film, that is, not the city. It's always odd to see him not sliding backwards down a flight of stairs, firing two pistols while some doves fly past in slow motion, but I guess as a man ages he finds such a descent more perilous.

He also makes a pretty good bad guy, mouth stuffed full of gold teeth, in Let The Bullets Fly, a Chinese Western. I suppose that's really an Eastern, but the same tropes remain: a town full of cowed peasants ruled over by the criminal mastermind until the bluff anti-hero rides into town and ... starts bluffing, I suppose.

The tone is hard to pin down: at times grotesque and disgusting (one pointless suicide that puts the plot into full motion) but mostly it feels like a comedy, just one with lots of beheading. Lots of innocent people die while an ineffectual government makes attempts at welfare that are sabotaged by the criminals who control the town ... Hang on, is that a metaphor? What the hell? It's almost like a satire has been made by some film companies from Mainland China, suggesting all bureaucrats are dishonest, it's dangerous to trust leaders (but the public are gullible cowards who'll do anything if you can fool them) and there are geese.

Um. Yes. There are geese. They only get a walk on part, but there must be some cultural significance to geese, because they appear on the movie poster as though they're almost as big stars as Mr Fat. Mr Yun Fat. Mr Chow. Oh, FFS! They shouldn't be getting above themselves, thinking they're big shots. I mean, it's not like they're doves.

I would try to explain the plot, but that would be wasting everyone's time. Suffice it to say there are enough double-crosses, mistaken identities and needless yet darkly amusing demises that everyone should be happy.

The other reason it remains a cheerful film despite all the gore is that it turns out the 1920s were actually quite sunny most of the time - a bit of rain for dramatic effect, but unlike Shaolin, the rest of the time things are colourful and bright, not a land so unremittingly bleak that Andy Lau has to shave his head to distract us from the grimness of it all. So a much better Tuesday night film to enjoy.

Wonder if it will make much of an impression in the West, though, where it seems you can't make a cowboy film without aliens these days, but certainly no Chinese.


Post a Comment