The Bullet Vanishes: ”There’s no such thing as a perfect crime, just good people went wrong.”

Year:2012
Directed by Lo Chi-leung
Produced by Derek Yee,Mandy Law, Zhang Zhao,Albert Lee, Shan Dongbing and Catherine Hun
Written by Lo Chi-leung, Yeung Sin-ling and Yeung Sin-ling
Cast: Nicholas Tse, Lau Ching-wan, Yang Mi, Boran Jing, Wu Gang
and Liu Kai-chi

After a young woman is killed in a factory after being blamed for stealing bullets, a string of murders is committed where the bullet apparently keeps vanishing. Two high classed detectives are dispatched to deal with the puzzling mystery.

According to some research, I’ve done, The Bullet Vanishes’ production designs could have been inspired by 2009’s Sherlock Homes. That to me explains the ”Victorian-lite” aesthetic to the movie’s look. The look is done with care, so there are no awkward anachronisms since the story takes place in the 30s. The world in it is slightly stylized, yet the world in it is remarkably our own. Its stylized look is matched by its cool and visceral gun-play that makes the action presented in the film stellar. Of course, you would want a movie with the word”bullet” in the title to have good gun-play. A few of the characters are gunslingers, so they look like they just stepped out of a western yet the contrast of seeing them in a 1930s Shanghai isn’t too bothersome due to the strong cinematic direction.

Making thrillers with a bit of a visual flair is no easy feat, and The Bullet Vanishes excels here. Beyond just being a visual treat, The Bullet Vanishes also forces you to think with its ever increasingly complex plot. There is no shortage of twists and turns. Taking an another cue from 2009’s Sherlock Holmes, our two lead detectives Song Donglu(played Sean Lau) and Guo Zhui(played by Nicholas Tse) have almost a supercharged sense of intuition. Though, it’s used here in a serious fashion without any of the snide remarks. Song Donglu and Guo Zhui aren’t copies of Holmes or Watson; both possess a great deal of charisma to maintain a good screen presence. Donglu is almost an austere brainiac while Guo Zhui is more of the cool gunslinger with differing views on justice. The duo although they become close always maintain a ”professional relationship” with each other. So thankfully, we’re not treated to overly sentimental cliches about the importance of the friendship. Some might find these two characters being kept at ”keep at arm’s length” strange at first; it works to the credit of the twist at the end. Other members of the cast are pretty solid as well not because they’re developed well but rather fit the twist and turns of the ongoing investigations pretty well. There aren’t many female characters here, but the two most notable here Li Jia and Little Lark are pretty serviceable; their distinctive occupations give them some semblance of a persona.

The Bullet Vanishes is very lacking in humor, but it is tightly paced well that you won’t be looking for humor hopefully. Though, there are a few morbid jokes here and there. It’s quite unsettling to watch, but it’s right at home for characters who to stick close to death so lightly. The few sparse jokes are also used to foreshadow a thing or two. Speaking of foreshadowing, a tale that Donglu tells the audience about a wife murdering her husband that seems like a total ”non-sequitur” takes on an entirely different significance towards the end of the film. It allows the film to present the themes in a pretty direct way with some semblance of subtlety.

Such a complex plot can be overwhelming, especially when you’re forced to rely on subtitles such as a non-Chinese speaker like myself. But, the final arc of The Bullet Vanishes is a breather; taking the complex threads developed from the story and explaining them before revealing the twist. When the twist hits you, the revelation isn’t too jarring but a moment of cold hard realization. There are probably a few logical inconsistencies in the twist itself, but it’s steep in themes of the film, so it’s quite fitting.

The Bullet Vanishes is a challenging mystery that’s executed with a lot of great grit and style.

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