HKMDB Daily News

September 14, 2012

The Bullet Vanishes (Screen Daily review)(2)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 4:35 pm

The Bullet Vanishes
14 September, 2012
By Edmund Lee

Dir: Lo Chi-leung. Hong Kong, China. 2012. 103mins

Less fantasy-oriented than Tsui Hark’s supernatural Detective Dee and more seriously minded than Guy Ritchie’s playful Sherlock Holmes movies, The Bullet Vanishes is a competently staged period whodunit which, judging from its handsome box office returns in mainland China and its makers’ visual flair and intellectual candour in handling the complicated material, has ample potential to develop into a prominent detective movie series for the Chinese-speaking market.

Set in Tiancheng Province, China, this stylish 1920s-set movie opens to the suspicious death of a young female worker of an ammunition factory, who’s forced by the crooked owner (Liu Kai-chi) into what turns out to be a rigged game of Russian Roulette. The mystery only deepens as a murder subsequently takes place at the factory – with a bullet that seems to have spontaneously vanished from the scene – and rumours begin to circulate that the dead girl has put a curse on the factory, predicting further deaths by ‘phantom bullets’.

A veteran of horror flicks and action thrillers (Double Tap, Inner Senses, Koma, Kidnap), director and co-scriptwriter Lo Chi-leung comes up with arguably his best film to date with this Hong Kong-China co-production, a sumptuously realised detective mystery that merges Holmesian deductions with shootouts, explosions and action sequences – some of which are shown with slow-motion bravado.

Lo is handsomely assisted by his lead pairing, Lau Ching-wan and Nicholas Tse. The former plays Song Donglu, an eccentric forensic expert whose unrelenting pursuit of justice has earned him a promotion as the new NPA officer at Tiancheng’s corrupt police headquarter, while the latter plays Guo Zhui, a righteous cop who arrives with a history as a contract killer and a cheesy reputation as the “fastest gun” in town.

The Bullet Vanishes is, however, not a buddy movie in its core. Guo, despite his skills with firearms (he can hit his targets with bullets that bounce off walls, as if he’s playing pool), is less a right-hand man for Song than he’s a rival investigator of the cases. Judging by Hollywood standards, it could be said that the two leading men have been given relatively few occasions to banter and bond; their interactions are sometimes amusingly, if not quite intentionally, awkward.

But that, together with a relative lack of humour, doesn’t diminish the entertainment quotient of the film, which maintains its sense of intrigue with an incessant stream of details and clues. Here is a detective mystery that trusts its audience to put the puzzles together, without succumbing to the tendency of mainstream blockbusters to explain everything away for their viewers’ easy, immediate consumption.

The rapidly increasing number of henchmen and factory workers involved – or killed off – in the mysterious circumstances may be fairly overwhelming for the less attentive viewers. Amid the vanishing bullets and a case of locked-room murder, extraneous developments are few and far between in the movie; even Guo’s romantic interest, a tricky fortune-teller called Little Lark (Mimi Yang), would prove to be playing a vital yet barely discernible role in the chain of causation.

The one major weakness of this otherwise very satisfying movie is its lack of a sense of humanity. Despite Lau’s charismatic presence, it’s hard for the audiences to identity emotionally with a protagonist they know nearly nothing about. The back story of Song is curiously kept private and, one would reasonably guess, for the next instalment of the would-be series.

In all likelihood, the protagonist’s relationship with an incarcerated husband killer (Jiang Yiyan) – whose own intricate murder plot is briefly reconstructed for Song in The Bullet Vanishes (shot with an inventive dash of silent film aesthetics) but whose past history with the detective is left perplexingly unspoken – should return in a more expositional manner in the probable sequel.

Production company: Film Unlimited Production

International Sales: Emperor Motion Pictures, www.emp.hk

Producers: Albert Lee, Zhang Zhao

Co-producers: Albert Yeung, Jia Yueting

Screenwriters: Lo Chi-leung, Yeung Sin-ling

Cinematography: Chan Chi-ying

Editors: Kong Chi-leung, Ron Chan

Production designer: Silver Cheung

Music: Teddy Robin, Tomy Wai

Main cast: Lau Ching-wan, Nicholas Tse, Mimi Yang, Boran Jing, Liu Kai-chi, Wu Gang, Yumiko Cheng, Jiang Yiyan.
ScreenDaily

September 10, 2012

September 9, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

Filed under: News — Tags: , — dleedlee @ 5:00 pm

TimeOutHK: Lo Chi-leung interview

Perhaps better known for his scary flicks and modern thrillers, director Lo Chi-leung is now playing detective for the excellent The Bullet Vanishes.

Liu Kai-Chi

FBA: Lotus review

Simplistic drama of a young female “rebel” fails to convince on a dramatic level.

FBA: Lethal Hostage review

Manipulative but gripping crime rondo set in the southern drug trade, with a fine cast.

Sun Honglei

Ni Dahong

Wang Luodan

Yang Kun

Zhang Mo

August 30, 2012

The Bullet Vanishes (Variety review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 11:11 pm

The Bullet Vanishes
Xiaoshi de zidan
(Hong Kong-China)

By Maggie Lee

A China Lion Film Distribution (in U.S.)/Le Vision Pictures Co., Emperor Motion Pictures Distribution (Beijing) (in China) release of a Emperor Film Prod. Co., Le Vision Pictures Co. presentation of a Film Unlimited Prod. production. (International sales: Emperor Motion Pictures, Hong Kong.) Produced by Albert Lee, Zhang Zhao, Derek Yee, Mandy Law. Executive producers, Albert Yeung, Jia Yueting. Co-producers, Catherine Hun, Shan Dongbing. Directed by Lo Chi-leung. Screenplay, Leung, Yeung Sin-ling, based on a story by Yeung.

With: Sean Lau, Nicholas Tse, Mini Yang, Wu Gang, Liu Kai-chi, Jiang Yiyan, Chin Ka-lok, Boran Jing, Yumiko Cheng, Xuxu, Liu Yang, Wang Ziyi. (Mandarin dialogue)

Taking a page from the careful plotting of Nipponese detective stories, then transplanting the template to a Chinese period setting rife with social resonance, “The Bullet Vanishes” boasts a level of narrative control and artistic finesse rare among such endeavors. Unraveling paranormal murders in a bullet factory, Hong Kong helmer Lo Chi-leung sheds the shock tactics of his best-known horror-thrillers, “Inner Senses” and “Koma,” to pursue an expositional approach, and pulls it off by casting quietly engrossing leads Sean Lau and Nicholas Tse. Robust opening in China followed by a U.S. bow proves demand for cerebral Asian genre fare exists.

The story is set in Tiancheng prefecture during China’s warlord era (around the 1920s). Prison superintendent Song Donglu (Lau), known for his obsessive probing of his inmates’ motives, is summoned by police chief Jin (Wu Gang) to investigate an inexplicable murder in the local bullet factory. The foreman, Chen Qi (Liu Yang), has been hit by a bullet that went through his skull and made a dent in the wall, but it’s nowhere to be found. Soon afterward, mysterious graffiti on the factory grounds warns of the curse of the “phantom bullet.”

Rumors spread about the vengeful ghost of factory girl Yan (Xuxu), who was accused of stealing and coerced into a game of Russian roulette with the boss, Ding (Liu Kai-chi). As predicted, more deaths by gunshot occur, but the bullets are always strangely missing.

Teaming up with sharpshooting detective Guo Zhui (Tse) and Little Lark (Mini Yang), a fortuneteller moonlighting as informant, Song uncovers layers of corruption that rattles the hypothesis he’s dedicated to prove: “There are no born villains, just good people turned bad.”

In a case-within-a-case, Song entertains a discourse on “the perfect crime” with Fu Yuan (Jiang Yiyan, icily captivating) an inmate convicted of murdering her husband (Chin Ka-lok). Craftily weaving clues into this subplot (with flashbacks shot in stylized black-and-white, like a silent film), Lo makes Fu’s clinical premeditation reinforce the moral ambiguity running through the film.

Transcribing such classic concepts as the locked-room murder, as well as the deductive processes and speculative re-enactments favored by Japanese mysteries, Lo and Yeung Sin-ling’s screenplay will have no problem holding attention. However, except for a bold stunt utilizing ropes and a pulse-quickening gunfight in the last 15 minutes or so, the pacing is too even-keeled to deliver any edge-of-your-seat tension. This may be why both the final unlocking of mysteries and even the twist ending feel underwhelming despite their cleverness.

The blueprints for the doggedly persistent Song could be famous fictional detectives like Keigo Higashino’s Galileo or Seishi Yokomizo’s Kousuke Kindaichi, while there’s a Holmes-Watson dynamic to his partnership with Guo. The strength of Lau’s and Tse’s perfs lies in their conscious effort to underplay the eccentricity of their roles, instead conveying their flawed humanity. The distractingly voluptuous Yang gives maximum oomph to a token femme role, making her fling with Guo a steamy diversion from the drier investigation scenes. Similarly, the delightful flirtation between forensic doctor Li Jia (Yumiko Cheng, svelte) and detective Xiaowu (Boran Jing, likable) could have taken on more dramatic weight.

Tech package is a treat. The lighting creates an ambience that’s almost Victorian in its haunting play of shadows, and Chan Chi-ying’s lensing takes full command of widescreen and elegant tracking shots to underscore the oppressive atmosphere of prisons, factories and police stations. This is reinforced by somber color tones, accentuating the bleak textures of rust, brick and faded wall paint.

Camera (color/B&W, widescreen), Chan Chi-ying; editors, Kong Chi-leung, Ron Chan; music, Teddy Robin, Tomy Wai; production designer, Silver Cheung; art director, Lee Kin-wai; set decorator, Wong Wai-ming; costume designer, Stanley Cheung; sound (Dolby Digital), Phyllis Cheng; re-recording mixers, Cheng, Lam Siu-yu; visual effects supervisors, Enoch Chan, Tse King-ho; visual effects, Herb Garden; action choreographer, Li Chung-chi; line producers, Man Cheuk Kau, Zhong Wei; assistant director, Dickson Leung. Reviewed at Emperor Motion Pictures screening room, Hong Kong, July 12, 2012. Running time: 103 MIN.
Variety

The Bullet Vanishes (Screen Daily review)

Filed under: Reprints — Tags: — dleedlee @ 3:57 pm

The Bullet Vanishes
8/30/2012 by Frank Scheck

A stylish period thriller set in 1930’s Shanghai, The Bullet Vanishes is one of the more striking Chinese imports from the fledgling distribution company China Lion. This detective story about a series of murders in which the bullets seem to disappear after being used bears no small debt to Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes flicks. But its clever plotting and beautifully designed production more than merit its trip to the West.

Said murders are being committed in, where else, a bullet factory, led by a venal boss and his vicious henchman who once forced a female worker suspected of stealing to play Russian roulette, with tragic results. Now her ghost may be exacting revenge, although cerebral-minded detective Song (Lau Ching-wan) and his partner Guo (Nicholas Tse) look for a less supernatural explanation in an investigation that includes such fascinating scientific experiments as the testing of ice bullets that melt after impact.

Viewers may ultimately become lost in the overly complicated labyrinth of a narrative, not to mention dialogue so fast and furious that one needs to be a speed reader merely to keep up with the subtitles. But director Lo Chi-leung also includes enough impeccably staged action set pieces and elaborate shootouts to entertain viewers who may have given up trying to follow everything that’s going on.

Providing some emotional heft to the proceedings is a social consciousness that is particularly evident in the character of Guo, who freely expresses his views about society’s poor treatment of the lower class.
The film’s visuals, from the gorgeous period costumes to the elaborate recreation of the city’s gritty environs, are consistently striking. And as the two detectives, Ching-wan and Tse, deliver the sort of slyly entertaining performances that make their characters memorable enough to warrant a sequel.

Opens: Friday, Aug. 31 (China Lion)
Production: Unlimited Production Limited
Cast: Nicholas Tse, Lau Ching-wan, Yang Mi, Boran Jing, Liu Kai-chi, Wu Gang, Yumiko Cheng, Wang Ziyi
Director: Lo Chi-leung
Screenwriters: Lo Chi-leung, Yeung Sin-ling
Producers: Albert Lee, Zhang Zhao
Director of photography: Chan Chi-ying
Editors: Kong Chi-leung, Ron Chan
Production designer: Silver Cheung
Costume designer: Stanley Cheung
Music: Teddy Robin, Tomy Wai
No rating, 103 min.
THR

April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

CRI: In Memory of Leslie Cheung

A large number of fans from across the world come to offer flowers at the Hong Kong Mandarin Hotel; the location where Leslie Cheung, the famous Hong Kong film actor and musician, committed suicide 9 years ago on April 1.

Japanese fans (Sina-slideshow)

FBA: Nightfall review

Routine crime drama squanders good leads on a poor script with only average direction.

CF: Box Office Revenue of “Nightfall” Reaches 40 Million Yuan

Engaging fable on greed and loss of values in HK society is good but not great.


CF: “Blood Stained Shoes” Premieres in Guangzhou

CF: The Absurd Comedy “Design of Death”

Based on the novel of the same name, the movie tells the story of a group of villagers who try to design the death of a well-known local hooligan. 
CF: ”Tokyo Newcomer” Gets Extra Screening Slots

The film tells the story of a Chinese superstar, portrayed by Chung, who abandons her career in China and marries a Japanese man. One of her loyal fans, played by Miao, follows her to Japan where he accidentally becomes involved in a spate of serial murders in a family-owned hotel where the owners are killed one by one.

Based on the life story of entrepreneur and motivational speaker Rocky Liang, the film recreates how Liang became successful. 

Stills from Derek Yee/Law Chi-Leung’s “The Bullet Vanishes” released at a Beijing press conference (Sina-gallery) yesterday

Yang Mi, Lau Ching-Wan

Nicholas Tse

Lau Ching-Wan

Liu Kai-Chi, according to the caption

Yang Mi  (Sina)2

Zhang Jingchu and Li Bingbing are rumoured to be in contention for the femal lead role in the Hollywood production of Edward Zwick’s “The Great Wall”

Li Bingbing

Zhang Jingchu

Zhang Jingchu is currently in Las Vegas

(Sina)2

Read the tale and circumstances behind how fellow blogger and ex-pat Glenn got these picture of Cherie Chung, Vivian Chow and Annie Liu, and some swag too, link below.

Cherie Chung

Vivian Chow, Cherie Chung, Annie Liu

A1: Andy Lau changes plans to raise daughter in Malaysia

He has now set his sights on Edmonton, where his sister has migrated to. Lau is also believed to own properties there.

MSN: Was Joey Yung showbiz boss Albert Yeung’s mistress?

MSN: Video of Jay Chou’s scuffle with the paparazzi circulated online

The video clip that documented Jay’s actions had shown him instructing his friends to form a human barricade to block the three reporters present. Jay had whipped out his mobile phone and filmed the reporters. He referred to them as “Number One, ninja dog”, “Number Two, horse face” and “Number three, monkey with glasses”.

Several days after Timmy’s marriage to Janet Chow in Hong Kong, he lashed out at Chester for spilling drinks on the bride’s wedding dress and also used his wedding as means to meet new girls.

March 21, 2012

March 21, 2012 [HKMDB Daily News]

Filed under: News — Tags: , , , , , , — dleedlee @ 12:06 pm

FBA: Ballsy Double Trouble enlivens FilMart

Jaycee Chan, Shoko, Jessica C, Xia Yu

Deng Jiajia, Xia Yu, Jaycee Chan

Jessica C, Shoko

Taiwan’s Hey Girls

Jessica C going for “little Jaycee” (Sina-gallery)

FBA: No Limit review

Messy mixture of action and young romance, partly redeemed by its two young leads.

A1: Horror films rise from the dead in Malaysia

Horror films were effectively banned in the Muslim-majority country for three decades for celebrating the other-worldly in violation of Islamic teachings.

A recurring Malaysian character is the “orang minyak,” or “oily man,” an elusive bogeyman smeared in black oil who hunts for virgins to rape.

It was immortalised in 1958’s “Curse of the Oily Man” by the late P. Ramlee, Malaysia’s most celebrated filmmaker, and real-life “sightings” remain common.

HKIFF opening ceremony

Miriam Yeung, Shawn Yue

7 months pregnant and wearing 4-inch heels

Miriam Yeung

Shawn Yue, Pang Ho-Cheung

Yang Mi

Yang Mi

Sandra Ng, Peter Chan (Sina)23

Trailer for Lo Chi-Leung’s “The Bullet Vanishes” starring Nicholas Tse, Lau Ching-Wan

Trailer for “Switch” (”Dwelling in the Fuchun Mountains”)


Congratulations: Kelly Chen gave birth to a 6.5 pound boy today. (Sina)

TaipeiTimes: Jay Chou’s Deja Vu restaurant reviewed

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