- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080p/24 (24Hz)
- Audio Codec: Madarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), Mandarin Dolby Digital 2.0, English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit), English Dolby Digital 2.0
- Subtitles: English
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: NR
- Discs: 2 (1 x Blu-ray + 1 x DVD)
- Run Time: 132 Mins.
- Studio: Well Go USA
- Blu-ray Release Date: April 20, 2012
- List Price: $29.98 (Blu-ray Combo Pack)/$32.98 (Collector’s Edition)
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(All Blu-rayDefinition.com screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Writer/director Wen Jiang’s (Devils at the Doorstep; The Sun Also Rises) Let the Bullets Fly (Ràng Zǐ Dàn Fēi; 让子弹飞; 讓子彈飛) is what I refer to as a “wonton western,” sort of in the vein of the 2003 film, Warriors of Heaven and Earth (Tian di ying xiong) in which he also had a starring role. Before anyone jumps to conclusions, I’ll stipulate upfront that I in no way mean that in a derogatory way, but, rather, as an allusion to the spaghetti westerns of Sergio Leone, such as A Fistful of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, and Once Upon a Time in the West. Leone’s westerns arrived onto the scene and revolutionized what was becoming a rather stale genre. Confusing the good guys with the bad and softening the moral lines that had been so strictly drawn in westerns of the past. Although the Italian Leone was filming in Europe, mostly in Spain, his westerns were still looking to the American “wild west” for their settings and inspiration.
The “wonton westerns” like Warriors of Heaven and Earth and Let the Bullets Fly have a wild west aesthetic, but are firmly planted in the East with a strong sense of Asian tradition. Even the Korean film The Good, The Bad, The Weird, falls into this category, although it more blurs the lines between East and West with its anachronisms and comedy.
Set in China of 1920, Let the Bullets Fly is set in a lawless, rural backwoods territory where the legendary bandit “Pocky” Zhang (Wen Jiang) and his gang of adopted sons make their living robbing trains. Opening up during the staging of spectacular train robbery by Zhang’s gang, the film gets off to an action-packed start with gunfire, galloping horses and a train flying through the air as it derails. The Zhang gang, looking for silver, however, discovers that they have just killed everyone on the train except a shady governor’s assistant Tang (You Ge) and the governor’s widow. Desperate to save his own hide, Tang agrees to help Zhang and his gang find their riches elsewhere by helping him impersonate the dead governor in the city town were headed to, Goose Town. Zhang sees dollar signs, thinking he can make more money as a corrupt politician as he ever could as a bandit.
Upon arriving in Goose Town, Zhang’s gang and their hostage/counselor Tang are faced with an obstacle in the corrupt and wealthy crime lord Master Huang (Yun-Fat Chow) who isn’t about to give up his control or wealth to any governor. What ensues is an escalating, humorous, and increasingly violent battle of wits between Zhang and master Huang to gain control over Goose Town and obtain as much wealth as possible, as the conniving Tang works both sides to slither his way out of a bad situation.
Marvelous action, glorious gunfights, complex legerdemain and wonderful dialogue, even accounting for whatever is lost in translation, makes for bucket loads of entertainment with Let the Bullets Fly.
Let the Bullets Fly was originally captured on Kodak Vision3 250D 5207 and Vision3 500T 5219 35mm film stocks with an array of Arri motion picture cameras in Super 35 (3-perf). It looks about what I’ve come to expect from these film stocks in this strong AVC/MPEG-4 encodement on Blu-ray from Well Go USA. Grain structure is rather fine and thinly layered, flesh tones and colors are rich, but natural in saturation while contrast is wide and strong. Blacks are inky without showing much noise and have a good amount of nuance. Now for the bad, and that is that there does appear to some slight some slight aliasing, which you can definitely see here and here.
The soundtrack is available in the original Mandarin and a new English dub. Both versions offer the option of DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) or Dolby Digital 2.0. I naturally opted for the original Mandarin lossless surround track and boy is it a treat. Despite being only 16-bit it is rather enjoyable and tremendously dynamic. Low frequencies resounding, beefing up every gunshot (and believe me, there are many in this film) and they ring out through every channel. Rather fortunately, the gunfire isn’t too jarring, being smoothed out in its high frequencies a bit so its not very fatiguing at higher volumes. The mix, as you might have guessed, is a rather aggressive one right from the beginning, opening with the rumble of a railway train, the gallop of horses, and, of course, thw whizzing of bullets flying about the room. Throughout the film, every channel is used quite effectively for discrete sounds and ambience. Dialogue is clean with no sign of clipping.
The release of Let the Bullets Fly we were sent comes with only trailers for the film (see below). While there is also a Collector’s Edition available that supposedly comes with a making of featurette, actor interviews, and deleted scenes, we were not able to confirm this.
- Original Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
- Teaser (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
- Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
The Definitive Word
While not a western in the strictest sense, I find it difficult to see how anyone who doesn’t enjoy westerns couldn’t appreciate this fantastic, humorous, action-filled Chinese take on the genre. With solid performances all around from its A-list cast and excellent direction from, Wen Jiang, Let the Bullets Fly has to be a shoe-in to be one of the best action flicks to hit Blu-ray this year.
Additional Screen Captures