Let the bullets fly: An absurd heroic metaphor of revolution

01 March 2015 on Movies. 5 minutes

JIANG Wen is one of the most famous Chinese actor, and he is also known as one of the best academic directors in China. JIANG only directs 5 movies until now including Devils on the Doorstep (鬼子来了), In the Heat of the Sun (阳光灿烂的日子), The Sun Also Rises (太阳照常升起), Let the bullets fly (让子弹飞), and Gone with the bullets (一步之遥). However, except the controversial Gone with the bullets, almost all the other 4 movies are considered to be the masterpieces among Chinese contemporary movies. Let the bullets fly, which is released at 2010, is the most interesting one in JIANG’s movies, and it also gains JIANG a big commercial success. Let the bullet fly is also thought to be an outstanding delegate of the combination of the commercial movie and the alternative movie. As a commercial film, Let the bullet fly is funny and exciting, and JIANG once again shows his heroism complex through the story. However, behind the funny part, this movie also talks about some serious stuff. The movie is full of absurd metaphors, and whole story is also a metaphor of revolution. JIANG makes many interesting descriptions in this “revolution” to reflect his rethink about the revolution. In the movie, MA Bongde (马邦德) commits bribery and becomes the new mayor of the Goose City. On his way to the city, he is robbed by ZHANG Muzhi’s (张牧之) bandit gang. MA claims himself as an advisor of the mayor to avoid killing by ZHANG, and he invites ZHANG to be the new mayor. Then, Zhang and his brothers come to the Goose City together with MA. However, the tyrannical local nobleman HUANG Silang (黄四郎), who tries to maintain his local power, does not like the new fake mayor. ZHANG and MA begin to fight with HUANG, and through the fights MA and two of ZHANG’s men die. The death of ZHANG’s brothers and MA totally provokes ZHANG. Finally, ZHANG launches a revolution in the Goose City and destroys HUANG.

Let the bullets fly tells a story about the fights, intrigues, contests and revolution between the gentleman thief ZHANG, the swindler MA and the local bully HUANG. In the film, although ZHANG is a bandit, he has a strong sense of justice and ready to help the weak. ZHANG is the representation of JIANG himself. The character has fulfill JIANG a dream, a dream that every boy has once thought about: being a hero, robbing the rich and assisting the poor with a bang of brothers.

However, beyond the typical JIANG’s heroism, the movie is also full of interesting and absurd details, which can be considered as some metaphors. For example, at the beginning of the movie, MA takes a train which is pulled by horses as his transportation to the Goose City. The image of the train pulled by horses is funny and absurd. There is a popular belief among the movie critics that the images of the horse and the train is a metaphor refer to the Marxism-Leninism since they are homophonic in Chinese. JIANG intentionally gives MA such a strange transportation on his way to the power, the ironic meaning of the scene speaks for itself.

Such kind of little metaphors are all over the movie, but they are all related to a greater one, the metaphor of revolution. HUANG is the old power center of the city, and ZHANG wants to end the domination of HUANG. At first, ZHANG and his brothers fight with HUANG on their own, and ZHANG loses two of his men. At last, ZHANG successfully instigates people in the city standing against HUANG, and he wins the fights with the power of people. The fights between ZHANG and HUANG is just like a revolution: the fights against the old power, sacrifice through the fights and the success of people’s power. Everything is exactly the same.

However, writing a revolution story is not hard thing, and the hard thing is how to describe this revolution. JIANG describes the image of the revolutionary ZHANG and the old power center HUANG carefully, but beyond that, JIANG also has some interesting and ironic description on the most important role in the revolution, people. In the final fight between ZHANG and HUANG, ZHANG and his brothers firstly put many money in the square. However, nobody dares to take the money, because they are afraid of HUANG. The second day, ZHANG puts guns in the square. This time, people take the guns, because they are angry with HUANG. The third day, ZHANG ask people in the city to come with him to fight against HUANG, but nobody comes. People are angry with HUANG, but they are not sure which side will win, so they choose to wait and see. The fourth day, after ZHANG claims that he has caught HUANG and cuts the fake HUANG’s head off, people finally choose ZHANG’s side and help him destroy the real HUANG. People’s reaction about the fights is very interesting: they are afraid of HUANG but they do not have the courage to fight against him even they have weapons. They join the revolution only after one side has already shown the absolute predominance. The ironic reaction of people reflects JIANG’s rethink about the role of people in revolutions.

This movie is just like most of JIANG’s works: ingenious dialogues, pervasive metaphors and narcissistic heroism. However, unlike the realistic Devils on the Doorstep which cannot be released to the public, and the romantic In the Heat of the Sun which has an unperformed box office, this time JIANG wins a great commercial success. Fortunately, when JIANG amuses the audiences to cater the market, he also uses the story tells a profound metaphor about revolution to insist on his pursuing of movies. Just like the words ZHANG says to MA, JIANG “stand to earn his money”.


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