2010 Written by Jiang Wen, Jue So-Chun, Shu Ping, Guo Jun-Li, and Wei Xiao
Directed by Jiang Wen
An Eastern Western set during the 1920s warring states period of China, where greed, exploitation, and violence were all too common. But it is dark times as those where heroes emerge, heroes that don’t fit the spandex-wearing definition of the word, but heroes that are real people who come in to solve big problems. Let the Bullets Fly sets the hero loose, with his own set of morals and convictions, and he pushes back against those who would stand in the way of his freedom.
Based on a book by Ma Shitu, Let the Bullets Fly features action, adventure, and revolutionary language. It is a minor power struggle against the backdrop of larger power struggles. We see how the struggles of life affect all levels, from important businessmen to government officials to the criminal underclass to the village peasants.
After a train robbery, Pocky Zhang’s band of “noble” bandits con their way into an unsuspecting town posing as the new appointed governor. But the town is controlled by a ruthless businessman who is used to running things his way as the townspeople suffer. Zhang isn’t about to take crap from anyone, setting into motion a war between to different types of criminals with two radically different philosophies.
“Pocky” Zhang Muzhi (Jiang Wen) – An outlaw gang leader with his own code of ethics. Pocky Zhang and his men rob only from the rich, and one such robbery sets in motion his impersonation of an appointed town governor. His gang consists of numbered members for easy signalling. Pocky’s image is of a pox-marked monster, but he’s really a handsome dude.
Boss Huang Silang (Chow Yun-Fat) – Arrogant Godfather of Goose Town who is too clever for his own good. Usually makes short work of the appointed governors, but Pocky Zhang proves to be unlike anyone he’s met before.
Governor Ma Bangde (Ge You) – The real appointed governor of Goose town, who bought the position using all the money he had. A sneaky fink who is out thought on both sides, his opponents more capable than his acts of deception.
Dragonball is a famous manga and anime series from Japan that has fans all over the world. I am not one of those fans so I don’t give a crap how they deviated from the source material. If you just want to read a review that complains about that stuff, then I am sorry, this is not the review for you. If you want to read a review that complains about other stupid stuff and yet still gives the film a fairly positive review, then you have hit the jackpot. Also, there is a monkeyman in this movie, and a CGI dragon. Just saying.
Dragonball the anime is about some dudes who spend 99% of the show charging up for the 1% where they fight and someone gets blasted only for them to fight next week after more charging up. It is the most popular show that has ever existed in the world. The movie decided to ignore the charging up and instead do some sort of “Find the Dragonballs!” plot. Fine with me. The film then basically becomes a low-rent Star Wars ripoff, or at least that same stupid farmboy mythology that everyone does. Sure, that legend has been around forever and Star Wars is known for borrowing elements wholesale from other myths itself, but all of those stories now just end up being compared to Star Wars, like it or not.
And where were the fistcams we were told about? I don’t remember any fistcams in the film. Maybe they realized it looked stupid.
Justin Chatwin does a good job with the normal teenager parts, but the sections where he is vowing revenge, questioning people about stuff in the dragonball mythology, or calling upon dragons to resurrect his master all come off as very badly acted. He just isn’t a good genre actor at this point, but he would be find chatting up some girl on 90210 or something.
Goku (Justin Chatwin) – Goku is the grandson of Master Gohan and your average American teenager who has a martial artist grandfather and is the heir guardian of a mysterious Dragonball that is sought by evil warlords. And he is secretly an evil monkey. Justin Chatwin is the annoyingly not-killed son from War of the Worlds. Here, he is less annoying.
Master Roshi (Chow Yun-Fat) – Master Gohan’s friend and mentor to Goku. Master Roshi is a creepy dude who enjoys some good porn and robots and being a slob. But he cleans up his act to teach Goku. You should know who Chow Yun-Fat is so I am not going to explain it.
Bulma Briefs (Emmy Rossum) – Bulma wants to use her father’s dragonball to develop a new energy source, but the dragonball is stolen by Mai and Bulma runs into Goku while tracking it down. Bulma Briefs was named by a guy, in case you were wondering. Emmy Rossum is enjoyable and graduated high school at age 15.
Chi Chi (Jamie Chung) – Chi Chi is not only a celebration of food, but is Goku’s love interest. She is a secret fighter and also a child of a super rich family and her parents are never around. Jamie Chung likes being on reality shows and drinking and driving. My wife was friends with her sister so that makes me totally famous! And we got cheesecake pics!
Lord Piccolo (James Marsters) – Lord Piccolo was trapped for 2000 years or some crap when he and a monkey failed to steal all the dragonballs long ago. They never mention how he escaped, nor how he got his zeppelin. Zeppelins are cool. Piccolo is green. James Marsters was on Buffy, but I don’t watch Buffy.
Yamcha (Joon Park) – Yamcha just shows up in the middle of the film as a semi-criminal guy who joins our heroes in chasing balls. Joon Park was a member of the music group g.o.d. in Korea.
Mai (Eriko Tamura) – Mai is Piccolo’s servent who just steals all these dragonballs and does other stuff while barely saying anything and looking like Bai Ling should have played the role. Eriko Tamura was in Heroes and the great film Surf School.