Let the Bullets Fly

Let the Bullets Fly

Zhang Mo as Number Six from Jiang Wen's LET THE BULLETS FLY. Picture courtesy Well Go USA/Variance Films. All rights reserved.

Let the Bullets Fly

Based on the Book by:
  • Ma Shitu
Executive Producer:
Photography Director:
Image Designer:
Costume Designer:

* Most external filmography links go to The Internet Movie Database.

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Let the Bullets Fly (2010/2012)

Opened: 03/02/2012 Limited

NoHo 7/LA03/02/2012 - 03/15/201214 days
Cinema Village...03/02/2012 - 03/15/201214 days
Monica 4-Plex03/02/2012 - 03/08/20127 days

Trailer: Click for trailer

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Genre: Chinese Action/Black Comedy (Chinese w/English subtitles)

Rated: Unrated (contains adult humor, profanity, and frequent strong, graphic violence. for 15 and up.)


In the lawless land that is rural China in the 1920s, legendary bandit "Pocky" Zhang (Jiang Wen) and his gang stage a train robbery. They are quite unhappy to discover that instead of silver, the only thing left on the train is the con man, Tang (Ge You). Desperate, Tang explains that he's on his way to Goose Town, where he's bought himself a governorship. If allowed to live, he will help Zhang assume the governorship in his place... where Zhang can make more money in one month as a corrupt politician than he can in a year's worth of train robberies. With Tang as his prisoner/counselor, off they go.

But neither realizes that Goose Town is already under the iron rule of the wealthy Master Huang (Chow Yun Fat, The Killer, Hard Boiled), whose charming exterior conceals a ruthless, conniving crime lord. As Zhang begins to see how badly Huang oppresses the citizens of Goose Town, he decides to do something about it, and Huang quickly senses a major threat to his empire.

Thus begins an escalating series of hyper-violent (and hilarious) mind games between the bandit and the crime lord, while the devious Tang tries to play both sides until he can exit the situation...preferably with a profit. The stakes quickly rise to ludicrous proportions in this masterfully vicious, pitch-black action-comedy (China's highest grossing film of all time), and you'll be laughing the entire time as double- and triple-crosses, razor-sharp wordplay, and hundreds of thousands of bullets explode across the screen.

Director's Statement

The creation of every film almost always comes from the meeting of the accidental and the inevitable. Let The Bullets Fly is no exception. For me, the inevitable came after I finished In The Heat Of The Sun, Devils On The Doorstep and The Sun Also Rises. These are three films I have always wanted to do. Each one a different creature, and each taking off in a completely different direction. Now that they are done, I feel that I am open to take on any kind of theme or story. The film medium has inevitably become a much freer and open landscape for me.

And then the accidental happened.

I came across by chance a story by veteran Sichuan author Ma Shitu that has suspense, epic imagery and emotion, all of which would instantly appeal to audiences in modern China. However, what was even more appealing to me personally was the promise of an intricate insight into people and their world of complicated interpersonal relationships. It also offers an opportunity for self-discovery as events unfold.

Particularly meaningful and fascinating for me is how this story works on multiple levels. As you delve into them, new layers of emotions and sensibility unfold.

There are a lot of characters in Let The Bullets Fly, many of them assuming several identities at the same time. On the surface, the plot seems complex. However, it really is in essence a story about coming of age. During production, I would sometimes subconsciously incorporate my own views and sensibilities into the character of Zhang Muzhi, or "Pocky" Zhang. For me, Zhang and Let The Bullets Fly represent an interesting personal realization of this stage in my own life.

-- Jiang Wen

About the Production

The Diaolou of Kaiping

The distinctive visual look of Let The Bullets Fly is partially due to the distinctive visual look of the district of Kaiping, where much of the film was shot. Kaiping not only serves as a visual spectacular backdrop for Let The Bullets Fly, but its unique history -- from Master Huang's export of Chinese slave laborers, a common profession for the wealthy in the area, to his imposing fortified mansion (see below) -- also forms much of the background detail of the film as well.

Designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2007, the diaolou (or "sculpted towers") of Kaiping in China's Guangdong province date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, spanning China's Qing dynasty and the early Republic. These fortified multi-story towers were build as protection against bandits, not typically as houses. There were more than 3,000 of these structures at the peak of construction, and thanks to preservation efforts (and excellent construction, largely of concrete), over 2,300 remain.

An important port area on the Pearl River Delta, Kaiping was a region of much emigration, and also a returning point for the Chinese diaspora abroad during the era in which these ornate buildings were built. Therefore, these towers typically incorporated Western architectural trends alongside Chinese structural and decorative forms. The east-meets-west architecture shows an ingenious melding of form and function -- at once beautiful habitats as well as effective defenses against marauding bandits.

Doubling for the villainous Master Huang's mansion in Let The Bullets Fly, Mingshi Lou is one of the most famous surviving diaolous in the Zili Village. It was built in 1925 by its original owner, who returned to China after making his fortune in America. Featuring Romanesque pillars and a Byzantine dome, this historical building is one of the finest examples of the early fusion architectural style of Kaiping's diaolou.

Great Court of the Mei Family

The immense Great Court of the Mei Family, another spectacular example of Kaiping's architecture, appears in Let The Bullets Fly as the hall of the magistracy and Yangyang Restaurant, where much of the action takes place. Dating back to 1931, the Great Court is a veritable mini-city itself, consisting of 108 two- and three-story buildings, orderly arranged over an area of over 5 hectares, with a vast open-air market in the middle.

Image and Costume Design

One of the most eye-catching aspects of Let The Bullets Fly, is the inimitable image and costume design by award-winning image director William Chang Suk-Ping. No effort or expense was spared in researching and realizing the meticulous recreation of the early Republican era of China -- down to every last stitch, fabric, and tiny detail. From the sumptuous but subtle sexiness of the traditional qipao (or "cheungsam") that hugs Carina Lau, the smart military uniforms (memorably worn at one point by the cross-dressing hellcat played by Zhou Yun), to the understated elegance of Chow Yun-Fat's east-meets-west wardrobe, Chang's unique vision in the image and costume design for Let The Bullets Fly is, in itself, a feast for the eyes.