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December 12, 2010

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Gangster tale could be flying success

ALTHOUGH actor-turned-director Jiang Wen's 2007 arthouse film "The Sun also Rises" failed him with takings of only 20 million yuan, his latest offering "Let the Bullets Fly" is expected to do well during the New Year season's box-office battle.

It is not the star-studded cast or magnificent scenery that makes the movie distinctive and appealing, it is Jiang's unique non-linear way of telling a Chinese gangster story that proves he deserves the honor of one of China's best and boldest film makers.

Set in war-plagued 1920s China, the film follows the adventure of a notorious bandit chief who descends upon a remote provincial town posing as its new mayor. However, a deadly battle of wit and brutality ensues when the bandit chief meets his match in the tyrannical local gentry Huang Silang.

The film stars Jiang as the gang boss, Chow Yun-fat as the bully and popular comedy actor Ge You as a fraud.

Although it is about a bloody confrontation between two gangs fighting for power in a remote town, director Jiang incorporates rich elements of suspense and black humor into plot and dialogue, to stop the film becoming your average anti-evil story.

It is both a funny and visually thrilling experience, particularly when the bandit chief wearing a mahjong-pattern mask communicates with his men during a fierce battle by whistling.

There are no sentimental scenes or tragic moods displayed, even when the bandit chief's adopted son, also a gangster, dies during combat. As well as making new friends during his adventure, the gangster boss also comes to know the true values of life beyond money.

This film may be reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino's "The Inglorious Bastards" for the similar black-humored story-telling, the precise, fluid rhythm and the compelling personalities of the protagonists.

Director Jiang doesn't deny his complex about hero and gangster. This kind of complex will probably last and prompt him to make a sequel, set against the turbulence of Shanghai during the 1920s and 1930s.

As Jiang's first commercial work on the silver screen, the movie is among a long list of anticipated Chinese films set to jam-pack the festive season.

It will face competition from Chen Kaige's "Sacrifice," Feng Xiaogang's "If You Are the One 2" and Wong Kar-Wai's "The Grand Master." But this time it seems that Jiang will get his confidence back as a film maker.


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