It's the wild, wild East in 'Let the Bullets Fly'

  • Article by: COLIN COVERT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: March 22, 2012 - 2:39 PM

Check your sanity at the popcorn stand and "Let the Bullets Fly" where they may.

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Chow Yun-Fat, Jiang Wen and Ge You in "Let the Bullets Fly."

If you're one of those stuffy types who insist on understanding what is happening in each and every scene of a film, the Chinese action-comedy blockbuster "Let the Bullets Fly" is not your cup of oolong. But if you're willing to accept a movie as an immersive emotional-kinetic experience, it may be your new favorite thing.

After watching it, I was as confused -- and giddy -- as if I had been rolled down a hill in a rain barrel. For unmitigated insanity, this is a hard film to beat.

The film, reportedly China's No. 1 box office hit ever, is essentially a rowdy latter-day western set in the warlord era of the 1920s. A newly appointed governor is riding a private rail car to provincial Goose Town, guzzling champagne and hatching plans to fleece the locals. Bandits attack, the governor dies in a hellacious train wreck.

His flunky Tang survives, and Zhang, the chief of the marauders, forces him to play along in a plot to oust Goose Town's boss, Master Huang. At least I think so. I'm about 70 percent sure that's what writer/director Jiang Wen was driving at.

Never mind. Goose Town is a wide-open frontier city where everybody has a gun and the irritability to use it. The bandit chief, "Pocky" Zhang, uses Tang to dupe Huang. Actually, there are two Huangs, the real one and his double. I'm guessing the sound-alike names are a riff on the idea that political leaders are all interchangeable crooks. And the population, as indicated, is a bunch of birdbrains.

Above all, the movie is entertaining, a riot of madcap comedy, exuberant action scenes and flamboyant acting. Writer/director Jiang, moving in front of the camera to play the bandit Zhang, is cowboy cool incarnate. Ge You, a timorous Don Knotts type in silk brocade, is a hoot as cowardly, avaricious Tang. Best known to Westerners is suavely handsome Chow Yun-Fat, China's answer to George Clooney, in a high-spirited double role as the nefarious Huang and his pea-brained lookalike. The plot-be-damned lunacy of the story repeatedly made me feel lost but never bored.

  • LET THE BULLETS FLY

    ★★★ out of four stars

    Unrated but includes adult situations and comic gore. In subtitled Mandarin.

    RottenTomatoes.com: read reviews

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