Film Review: Let the Bullets Fly

Let the Bullets Fly is sufficiently entertaining as it does not take itself too seriously. Nonetheless, the film is overlong, and would have been a more satisfying watch if it had been trimmed significantly.

In 1920s China, a notorious bandit hijacks a train, killing a would-be mayor. The bandit decides to pose as mayor himself, taking Counselor Tang with him to verify his identity. The bandit’s happiness in his new position is short lived, as the powerful Master Huang tries to reassert his place as the most powerful man in Goose Town…

Wen Jiang’s Let the Bullets Fly is a flawed epic. The narrative plays out on a grand scale, but the various twists and turns are unappealing. The film is preoccupied with identity; Tang and Zhang put on a masquerade to try and outsmart each other. The switching of Tang in particular grows tiresome as there is too much back and forth on this issue.

Despite in 1920s setting, the Western tropes of Let the Bullets Fly are very apparent. Peeled back to its core, Jiang’s film is concerned with power, revenge and greed. It is a pity that unnecessary layers have been piled on top; the film would have worked better if things had been kept simple.

The set design helps transport the audience to a bygone era. Some of the brief action scenes are well executed. The film could have done with more of these and less build up to some rather anticlimactic scenes. Actors play up to their one-dimensional roles, with Xiaogang Feng as Tang particularly standing out for this.

Let the Bullets Fly should have been much more enjoyable given its premise. With more action, fewer twists and a shorter running time, the film could have been a riot.

Let the Bullets Fly is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2011.