Let the Bullets Fly

Let the Bullets Fly[3] is a 2010 Chinese action comedy film written and directed by Jiang Wen, based on a story by Ma Shitu.[4] The film is set in Sichuan during the 1920s when the bandit Zhang (Jiang Wen) descends upon a town posing as its new governor. The film also stars Chow Yun-fat, Ge You, Carina Lau, Chen Kun and Zhou Yun.

Let the Bullets Fly
Let the Bullets Fly.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJiang Wen
Screenplay byJiang Wen
Story byMa Shitu
Produced by
CinematographyZhao Fei
Music by
Distributed byEmperor Motion Pictures
Release date
  • December 16, 2010 (2010-12-16)
Running time
132 minutes
  • China
  • Hong Kong[1]
Box officeUS$117.5 million (China)[2]
US$140 million (worldwide)[2]

The film's script went through over thirty drafts before Jiang Wen was happy with it. Let the Bullets Fly was originally to be released in September 2010 but was pushed back to December. Made in Mandarin and Sichuanese, the film broke several box office records in China, and has received critical acclaim, when it was released. Let the Bullets Fly grossed 674 million yuan (US$110 million) in Chinese box office[5] (becoming the highest grossing domestic film in China until it was beaten by Painted Skin: The Resurrection in 2012[6][7]) and $140 million worldwide.[2]


Set in China during the warring 1920s, "Poxy" Zhang (张麻子; Jiang Wen) leads a group of bandits, each of whom is numbered rather than named, and ambushes a luxurious government tram engine and coach (curiously "pulled" by many horses) carrying Ma Bangde (马邦德; Ge You), who is on his way to Goose Town (鹅城 E-cheng) to assume the position of county governor. Ma's train is derailed, killing both his bodyguards and his adviser, Counsellor Tang (汤师爷 Tang-shiye; Feng Xiaogang). Ma has no money, having spent it all to bribe and buy his position. To avoid being killed by Zhang's bandits, he lies to them claiming that he is Counsellor Tang and that his wife (Carina Lau) was the dead governor's wife. He tells the bandits that, if they spare him and his wife, he will help Zhang to impersonate Ma and pilfer Goose Town's finances.

At Goose Town, Zhang's appointment is opposed by local mobster boss Master Huang (黄老爷 Huang-laoye; Chow Yun Fat), who lives in a fortified citadel. Huang greets the governor's party by sending his best hat in a palanquin instead of himself. Ma tells Zhang that previous governors would split with Huang the majority of taxes levied from the town residents. However, Zhang is not interested in taking money from the poor.

Champion Wu (武举人 Wu-juren; Jiang Wu), one of Huang's subordinates, severely injures a citizen, and as governor Zhang rules against Wu in the town court. In retaliation, Huang frames Zhang's godson, Six (老六 Lao-liu), for theft. Six kills himself in the process of proving his innocence. Zhang vows to destroy Huang, but Ma advises him to use cunning rather than brute force. Huang invites Zhang to a meal at his citadel, and there Huang pretends to have his subordinates killed as a sign of good faith. Not realizing the governor is actually the bandit chief, Huang raises a plan to hunt down and kill Zhang Mazi. Zhang pretends to agree to this plan, so long as Huang finances the expedition.

That night, Huang disguises his subordinates as Mazi's bandits and sends them to assassinate Zhang while he is asleep. However, only Ma's wife is killed. In grief, Ma reveals his true identity as governor to Zhang. During the funeral for Ma's wife, Zhang has his bandits kidnap Huang and the heads of Goose Town's two leading families for ransom. They quickly discover they have captured Huang's look-alike. The town raises the ransom money but Zhang refuses to take it, instead returning it to the townsfolk. As they do so, Flora (花姐 Huajie), a young prostitute in Huang's custody, discovers their identity. She is captured by Zhang's gang but becomes friendly with Two (老二 Lao-er) and Three (老三 Lao-san) and later stays on as a bandit member, helping them to guard Huang's look-alike. Huang sends his own subordinates, also disguised as bandits, to retrieve the money handed back to the town.

A random woman approaches Ma, claiming that he seduced her while in Shanxi, and that he is the father of her son. As compensation, Ma gives them two jewels.

Huang tries to kill Zhang again by sending subordinates to his house, disguised as masked bandits. The plan fails and Huang's men are shot to death. As such, Huang is forced to supply the money for Zhang's Anti Bandit Expedition. When Huang's steward obtains a portrait of the real Governor Ma, and Huang confronts Zhang, Ma confesses that he is the real governor, and pretends that Zhang is his nephew. As the Expedition goes ahead, Huang employs a fake Zhang Mazi to kill Zhang, and also sends men to plant a landmine on the road. In the ensuing battle, Two is killed, but the fake Zhang Mazi is captured. To avoid death, he offers Zhang two jewels, and admits that he obtained them by robbing and killing a woman and her son. Ma recognizes the jewels, and is filled with grief, and tries to travel to Shanxi, but drives over the landmine and is killed.

Zhang vows revenge and returns to Goose Town for a showdown with Huang. He scatters money to the townsfolk and Huang gathers it up the next day; then Zhang scatters firearms to the townsfolk and prevents Huang from gathering them. Zhang and his bandits put on a show of attacking the citadel, then publicly beheads Huang's look-alike to convince the townsfolk that Huang is dead and the one in the citadel is the look-alike. The townsfolk are reassured and storm the citadel with their new weapons. Zhang gives Huang a gun with one bullet left for his own suicide. However, a moment later, Huang stands on top of his own citadel and fires the gun into the air to get Zhang's attention. He throws a hat better than the one he originally sent to greet Zhang off the roof, as he promised. He then walks back into the citadel, killing himself with his own landmine.

Three intends to marry Flora and the surviving bandits leave for Shanghai to lead a more peaceful life. They take the train through the mountains, Zhang riding after them.


Director Jiang Wen went over 30 drafts of the film's script.[8]

Parts of the filming were done on location in the Kaiping diaolou in Guangdong, China.[9]


Let the Bullets Fly was originally scheduled for a release in September 2010.[10] The release date was postponed as a spokesperson for Emperor Motion Pictures stated that "There is a lot of post-production to be done and it has to be done properly."[11] The film premiered in Beijing on December 6, 2010, with wide release in Mainland China on December 16.[12][13] Let the Bullets Fly was released in Hong Kong on January 13, 2011.[1][14] The film has become the highest grossing Chinese film, beating the record set by Aftershock.[15] Following Avatar, this film is now the second highest-grossing film ever released in China.[16]

Let the Bullets Fly had its American premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011. The festival's co-founder, Martin Scorsese, had a private screening of the film in August 2010 during post-production when he was visiting Beijing with his family.[17]

Box officeEdit

The film's opening day gross was $4.5 million (RMB30m), which did not break the opening day record set by Feng Xiaogang's Aftershock. By the weekend, the film's accumulated grossed reached $19.52 million (RMB130.18m) and it became the local film fastest to break the RMB100m mark.[18] Let the Bullets Fly earned a total of 400 million yuan (60 million US dollars) in its first 11 days of release.[19] It was scored 7.3 points on IMDB. [20]

Critical receptionEdit

In China, Let the Bullets Fly won acclaim for story and dialogue as well as attracting criticism for its violence. John Anderson of Variety describes the film as "an entertaining hot pot of wry political commentary and general mischief" and adds that "genre fans in particular will find much to revel in, with Jiang being a helmer of sharp commercial instincts and a sage satirical bent." Anderson further praised the film's visual style and composition, stating "While a generous portion of Let the Bullets Fly is dedicated to computerized chaos, explosions, and mayhem, the subtle is always in competition with the ostentatious." Anderson points out one lengthy scene involving a conversation between the three main characters "d.p. Zhao Fei's camera virtually floats around them, rotating, making mute commentary and suggesting the camerawork in Hou Hsiao-hsien's Flowers of Shanghai. Its captivating."[21] Maggie Lee of The Hollywood Reporter described the film as "unabashedly entertaining" and though less tailored to film festivals than Jiang's other works, the bottom line is that it is a "rollicking Chinese western directed with cinematic gumption."[22]

Film Business Asia gave the film an eight out of ten rating, calling it a "richly entertaining Oriental Western anchored by a well-honed, ironic script and terrific performances."[1] Time Out Hong Kong called the acting "masterclass throughout" while noting that it may take a "native Chinese to fully appreciate."[23] The Beijing Review said the film had "a great deal more depth to it than the average Hong Kong shoot-'em-up" and that it was as "captivating to listen to as it is to watch".[24] China Daily placed the film on their list of the best ten Chinese films of 2010.[25] Twitch Film praised the film's tone and the script, stating "What is most refreshing about this tried and tested formula is Jiang's decision to play his film for laughs, and the script is littered with pitch-black humour throughout."[26]

Awards and nominationsEdit

Jiang Wen (pictured) won the award for Best Director at the 18th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards

Let the Bullets Fly's awards and nominations included Best Film and Directing nominations from the Asian Film Awards and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Jiang also received the Best Director award from the Hong Kong Film Critics Society.

Ceremony Category Name Outcome
5th Asian Film Awards[27][28]
Best Film Nominated
Best Director Jiang Wen Nominated
Best Actor Chow Yun-fat Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Carina Lau Kar-ling Nominated
Best Screenplay Jiang Wen Nominated
Best Costume Design William Chang Suk-pin Won
5th Asia Pacific Screen Awards[29]
Best Feature Film Nominated
Achievement in Directing Jiang Wen Nominated
2011 Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards[30]
Best Film Nominated
Best Director Jiang Wen Nominated
Best Leading Actor Ge You Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Carina Lau Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Wei Xiao, Li Bukong, Zhu Sujin, Shu Ping, Jiang Wen, Guo Junli Won
Best Cinematography Zhao Fei Won
Best Visual Effects Eman Tse, Victor Wong Nominated
Best Makeup & Costume Design William Chang Nominated
Best Sound Effects Wen Bo, Wang Gang Nominated
31st Hong Kong Film Awards[31][32]
Best Film Ma Ke, Albert Lee, Yin Homber, Barbie Tung, Zhao Haicheng Nominated
Best Director Jiang Wen Nominated
Best Screenplay Zhu Sujin, Shu Ping, Jiang Wen, Guo Junli, Wei Xiao, Li Bukong Nominated
Best Actor Jiang Wen Nominated
Best Actor Ge You Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Carina Lau Nominated
Best Cinematography Zhao Fei Nominated
Best Film Editing Jiang Wen, Cao Wei Jie Nominated
Best Art Direction Eddy Wong, Yu Qing Hua & Gao Yi Guang Nominated
Best Costume & Make Up Design William Chang Suk Ping Won
Best Action Choreography Sit Chun Wai, Lee Chung Chi Nominated
Best Sound Design Wen Bo, Wang Gang Nominated
Best Visual Effects Victor Wong, Xie Yi Wen Nominated
18th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Award[33]
Best Director Jiang Wen Won


  1. ^ a b c Elley, Derek (January 3, 2011). "Let the Bullets Fly (讓子彈飛)". Film Business Asia. Retrieved January 3, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Nancy Tartaglione (December 21, 2014). "'Hobbit' Rules; 'Bullets' Fire Up China; 'PK' Lands; 'Museum' Opens Doors: Intl BO". Deadline.com. Retrieved December 22, 2014.
  3. ^ simplified Chinese: 让子弹飞; traditional Chinese: 讓子彈飛; pinyin: Ràng Zǐ Dàn Fēi; Jyutping: Joeng6 Zi2 Daan6 Fei1
  4. ^ Smith, Ian Hayden (2012). International Film Guide 2012. p. 88. ISBN 978-1908215017.
  5. ^ Stephen Cremin (18 May 2013). "So Young enters China's all-time top ten". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on 19 March 2015.
  6. ^ "《让子弹飞》票房7.3亿 姜文成国内第一导演" (in Chinese).
  7. ^ Cremin, Stephen (July 24, 2012). "Resurrection takes China BO record". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on July 30, 2012. Retrieved July 24, 2012.
  8. ^ "Pulling out all the stops to Let the Bullets Fly". China Daily. December 24, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  9. ^ Kaiping "Diaolou" - Location of "Let the Bullets Fly", CRI English.com, December 3, 2010
  10. ^ Frater, Patrick (March 4, 2010). "Record China BO already being targetted". Film Business Asia. Retrieved December 29, 2010.
  11. ^ "Bullets autumn release shot down". Film Business Asia. June 9, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  12. ^ Frater, Patrick (July 12, 2010). "Jiang takes new aim at December". Film Business Asia. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  13. ^ "Let the Bullets Fly premieres in Beijing". China.org.cn. December 8, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  14. ^ Chu, Karen (December 19, 2010). "'Bullets' Guns Down Chinese Box Office". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  15. ^ Frater, Patrick (January 21, 2011). "Bullets shoots BO record, fires up on line". Film Business Asia. Retrieved January 21, 2011.
  16. ^ "Let the Bullets Fly becomes highest grossing domestic film in China". Asia Pacific Arts. 2011-02-18. Archived from the original on 2014-09-11. Retrieved 2011-02-19.
  17. ^ Cremin, Stephen (March 15, 2011). "Bullets finds Love at Tribeca". Film Business Asia. Retrieved March 15, 2011.
  18. ^ "Jiang Wen's Let the Bullets Fly sets records in China". Screen Daily. December 20, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  19. ^ "China political satire scores big at box office". Bangkok Post. December 30, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  20. ^ "Saraba fukushu no okami-tachi yo (2010)". IMDb.
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  22. ^ Lee, Maggie (January 11, 2011). "Let the Bullets Fly -- Film Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 14, 2011.
  23. ^ Lee, Edmund (January 12, 2011). "Let the Bullets Fly". Time Out Hong Kong. Archived from the original on October 4, 2011. Retrieved January 20, 2011.
  24. ^ Fuksman, Mike (January 10, 2011). "Movie Review: Let the Bullets Fly". Beijing Review. Retrieved January 10, 2011.[permanent dead link]
  25. ^ Zhou, Raymond (December 30, 2010). "Top 10 movies of 2010 in China". China Daily. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  26. ^ Marsh, James (December 14, 2010). "Reviews: Let the Bullets Fly Reviews". Twitch Film. Archived from the original on December 18, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  27. ^ "5th Asian Film Awards Nomination List" (PDF). Asian Film Awards. January 10, 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on January 24, 2011. Retrieved February 14, 2011.
  28. ^ Cremin, Stephen (March 21, 2011). "Boonmee claims AFA crown". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on March 24, 2011. Retrieved March 22, 2011.
  29. ^ "Nominees and Winners 2011". Asia Pacific Screen Awards. Archived from the original on 2011-11-13.
  30. ^ "2011 台北金馬影展 Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival". Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards. Archived from the original on October 6, 2011. Retrieved October 6, 2011.
  31. ^ "第三十一屆香港電影金像獎提名名單". Hong Kong Film Awards. Retrieved February 22, 2012.
  32. ^ Frater, Patrick (April 16, 2012). "Simple Life tops HK awards". Film Business Asia. Archived from the original on April 29, 2012. Retrieved April 16, 2012.
  33. ^ "The 18th Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards". Love HK Film.com.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit