Review: THE BULLET VANISHES 消失的子彈 (2012) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Monday, 17 September 2012

Review: THE BULLET VANISHES 消失的子彈 (2012)



Set in 1920/30s Shanghai, THE BULLET VANISHES opens with a suspicious death of a young female worker named Yan (Xuxu) of an ammunition factory, who is accused of stealing a bullet by his boss, Ding (Liu Kai-Chi). To prove her innocence, Ding challenges her for a game of Russian roulette. She is unlucky enough to end up dead after she shoots herself in the head. Meanwhile, Song Donglu (Lau Ching-Wan), a quirky and eccentric prison superintendent who is known for his obsessive investigation method, is summoned by police chief Jin (Wu Gang) to investigate the murder of Chen Qi (Liu Yang), a foreman who has been hit by a bullet that went through his skull and made a dent in the wall. Teaming up with hotshot "fastest gun-in-the-region" detective Guo Zhui (Nicholas Tse), they head over to the ammunition factory where Chen Qi's death took place. Strangely enough, they find no trace of bullets. The workers there claims it must be the work of Yan, who returns as a ghost exacting revenge but Song and Guo figures there must be a less supernatural explanation in their investigation.


REVIEW: Hong Kong's answer to SHERLOCK HOLMES (2009). Lo Chi-Leung's THE BULLET VANISHES is a stylish period whodunit blessed with charming two leads (Nicholas Tse and Lau Ching-Wan), clever plotting and impeccable technical areas. Best of all, it's a huge relief that Lo Chi-Leung has finally made his true comeback after his once-prolific directing career took a huge tumble in 2010's CURSE OF THE DESERTED.

Lo Chi-Leung and Yeung Sin-Ling's screenplay surrounding the complicated mystery is especially intriguing and fun to watch for. Elsewhere, there's an intriguing subplot involving Fu Yuan (Jiang Yiyan), an inmate convicted of murdering her husband (Chin Ka-Lok) where Song is trying to learn the truth -- together with an entertaining flashback scene shot in stylised black-and-white silent movie-style. Somewhere in between, director Lo Chi-Leung also inserts a couple of lively action set-pieces especially the final Mexican standoff and the slow-motion explosion sequence.

The cast is top-notch, with Lau Ching-Wan being the best of the bunch. His eccentric performance is always fun to watch for, and his character easily recalls the one he did before in MAD DETECTIVE (2007). Nicholas Tse is charismatic as usual, while Liu Kai-Chi gives a gleefully over-the-top performance as the crooked Ding and Jiang Yiyan is captivating as the icy Fu Yuan.

As for Lo Chi-Leung, his direction oozes with plenty of style and enthusiasm to keep the viewers intrigued throughout the movie. But still, his movie is not without some of the glaring flaws. The pace is slow and draggy in some parts, while the obligatory romance between Guo Zhui and Little Lark (Yang Mi), who plays a fortune teller, feels like an afterthought. Then there's the unexpected twist at the finale. It's a surprise that baffles me, but it also feels unnecessary and also convoluted.

Despite the setbacks, THE BULLET VANISHES remains one of the best Hong Kong movies of the year.

THE BULLET VANISHES is a stylish if slow-moving period whodunit blessed with a pair of engaging performances from Lau Ching-Wan and Nicholas Tse.

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