Magazine article Newsweek International

China's Box-Office Gold

Magazine article Newsweek International

China's Box-Office Gold

Article excerpt

Byline: Isaac Stone Fish

China's biggest domestic box-office hit to date is a freewheeling romp full of sex, violence, and humor. Set in the early 20th century, after the Ching dynasty shattered and warlords fought over the empire's pieces, Let the Bullets Fly tells the brutally comic tale of a bandit facing off with the local strongman for control of a provincial town. Released in December, it is already the second-highest-grossing film ever to play on the mainland, right behind Avatar.

Its wit, candor, and lack of ideology make it the rare mainland film that's considered a movie first and a Chinese movie second. Jiang Wen, who directed the film, plays the intense bandit chief Zhang, whose band of six brothers robs a train, along with the governing seal to Goose Town, where they establish a regime that steals from the rich to distribute to the poor. Opium smuggler Huang Silang (Hong Kong action star Chow Yun-Fat) repeatedly tries to kill Zhang and regain his town. The former governor, Master Tang (popular Chinese actor Ge You), tries to broker a truce while figuring out his angle. "Don't risk your life," he warns Zhang. "If you do, you can't make money."

While some critics have praised Let the Bullets Fly, others consider it a minor success in a China that still doesn't know how to make movies. "This is a good film, and there's a lack of other good films out there, so this one gets more attention," says Zeng Jiaxin, a Beijing-based film and cultural critic. …

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