Released by: Well Go USA
Released on: April 24, 2012.
Director: Jiang Wen
Cast: Chow Yun Fat, Ge You, Xiaogang Feng, Jiang Wen
Year: 2010 Purchase From Amazon
Jiang Wen’s 2010 film Let The Bullets Fly is a fun mix of a fairly standard heroic bloodshed film, the kind made in the glory days of Hong Kong cinema, and Italian spaghetti westerns made with a sense of humor and a great eye for composition. It’s slick, it’s funny, it’s violent and it’s also a little bit long in the tooth. That said, the good certainly outweighs the bad and how much fun is it to see Chow Yun Fat headlining here?
The story is set in the China of the 1920s and follows a train robber named “Pocky” Zhang (Jiang Wen) whose gang has earned themselves a fairly big reputation in the area for some of their daring robberies. When the movie begins, we see one of those robberies in action which results in the derailment of the train being robbed. Zhang quickly searches what’s left of the train and finds that everyone onboard is dead except for the governor’s assistant Tang (You Ge) and widow. Tang figures he’s done for but manages to talk Zhang into letting him help he and his gang hit the big time by impersonating the governor to give them access to all the loot that surely awaits them at the train’s destination, Goose Town. Zhang figures this is a chance to get into politics and hit the big time, so they strike up an alliance.
When they arrive in Goose Town, however, Tang and Zhang soon run afoul of a local crime boss named Master Huang (Chow Yun Fat) who has no intentions of giving the Governor anything, be it taxes, property or support – which sets off a war for control of Goose Town as both sides vie for control while Tang uses some Yojimbo/Man With No Name style tactics to work both factions over hoping to escape with all the power and control.
Very obviously playing in Leone’s sandbox, Wen Jiang deftly balances humor and action with excellent results in this film and if at over two hours in length it’s a bit longer than it probably needed to be, the story rarely feels padded even if some more judicious editing might have helped the pace in the film’s few slower spots. The performances are strong across the board, with Chow Yun Fat playing the more than slightly arrogant Huang perfectly and both Wen Jiang and You Ge almost every part his equal. Like the spaghetti westerns that the film was so obviously influenced by this is more a movie about antiheros and bad guys than about any noble sort of character but when a film is populated by intriguingly rascally types such as those that inhabit this world it’s hard not to get a little attached to them.
The action scenes aren’t on par with something like John Woo’s classics but there are definitely some great moments here, from the opening robbery which sets the tone perfectly through to the big finish. It’s all shot with loads of style, a great eye for framing and with excellent use of color. Slick and satisfying, this is definitely one well worth checking out.
Well-Go USA presents Let The Bullets Fly in an AVC encoded 1080p 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen high definition transfer that looks very good. The quality of the image itself is generally remarkably detailed and crisp while black levels and color reproduction are both excellent. Some slight aliasing is there, as is some slight digital scrubbing in certain scenes and if you look for compression artifacts you might see some of those as well but these are all very minor. None of these factors are overpowering at all and the picture is consistently strong. Contrast is good and skin tones are rendered very nicely. All in all, the image is very good and leaves little room for complaint.
This disc offers up DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio tracks in Mandarin and English with optional subtitles offered in English only. There are frequent directional effects used throughout the film, particularly during the action scenes, and the score is spread out very nicely. The action scenes have a really strong weight to them and this helps give the movie more ambience and atmosphere and makes it a more involving watch, while the more discrete moments in the movie offer some decent ambient noise in the rear channels. Dialogue/sound effects level issue aside, the movie sounds very good here. Optional 2.0 Stereo tracks are also included in Mandarin and in English. The English tracks are fine for those who want them but the movie plays so much better in its original language that unless you have an aversion to subtitles, it’s hard to imagine wanting to watch it dubbed.
Extras for the film are slim, limited to a trailer for the feature and trailers for a few other Well Go USA properties, animated menus and chapter stops. As this is a Blu-ray/DVD Combo pack, a standard definition version is included on a second disc with identical extras.
The Final Word:
If it’s a little longer than it needed to be, Let The Bullets Fly still gets a whole lot right. A great mix of action and humor stylishly directed and performed by a very able cast, it’s a very entertaining movie and while the Blu-ray is light on extras, it looks and sounds great – a strong release for a strong movie.
Click on the images below for full sized Bly-ray screen caps!