Big Bullet (1996)
& directed by: Benny Chan
at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1997:
Best Film Editing (Peter Cheung & Cheung Ka-Fai)
Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 1997:
Best Director (Benny Chan)
Best Actor (Lau Ching Wan)
Best Supporting Actor (Jordan Chan)
Best Supporting Actress (Teresa Lee)
Best Action Choreography (Ma Yuk-Sing)
Best Cinematography (Arthur Wong)
Best Original Film Score (Peter Kam)
A simple and thin plot? Yes, please. Some quite exciting and intensive action set pieces? Always a plus! Lau Ching Wan as a tough cop? Rarely goes wrong! Good first half but worse second half of the movie? I'd rather not. The latter is a fact for this 90s actioner though.
Hard boiled cop Bill Zhu (Lau Ching Wan - Victim) gets transferred to the Emergency Unit in the Hong Kong police after an incident with his superior during a previous case. Bill rarely does things according to the book and that attitude creates conflicts within his new group. Meanwhile time is running short to catch a ruthless gang of thieves who plan to smuggle a huge amount of money out of Hong Kong...
Benny Chan's most famous film before and still today remains A
Moment Of Romance but after that one things got kind of
quiet around him until Big Bullet came along. This
movie opened a lot of doors and he landed a co-directing job
on the Jackie Chan vehicle Who Am I? Jackie also produced
the entertaining Gen-X Cops which Benny directed alone.
He didn't show signs of the effective storyteller from A Moment Of Romance on Gen-X Cops but in the end made quite a fun and entertaining
film for the masses.
Composer Peter Kam (Purple Storm) builds up terrific tension before the action bits but at other times the music feels a bit slick and hip for the movie's own good. For the remainder, Peter's music takes a step back which is good at times when you don't want music to dominate the main intention of a scene. The same can be said for the cinematography by Arthur Wong. He uses colours like blue to enhance certain scenes and settings but now when I look back I feel that his strongest work also occurs during the above mentioned action scene. This leads us into the main problem with Big Bullet. The tone changes and the action scenes gets slightly worse as the movie goes by.
technical aspects remain fine but the tone changes into a
very light and almost humerous one. For example, there is
quite a big amount of brutal violence during the first half
of the film but the meaning and the consequences of this are
barely touched upon subsequently, something that should've been done considering
that it was a serious movie once. The filmmakers had a good
thing going with the darker tone so I found it strange that
they almost abandoned it. The comedy within Lau Ching Wan's
police unit (mainly from Cheung Tat Ming) is at non-intrusive but the closer we get to the end
the more tiring and frankly silly it gets. All this could've
been forgiven or even forgotten if Benny and his action choreographer
would've blown us away in the final reel. Sadly all ideas
seemed to have run out by the time the two fights on the moving
plane begins. The ingredients for a bloody good action climax
was there but the editing and camera work is so all over the
place so you can barely follow the action. Disappointing.
Lee got herself a nomination but feels totally miscast
in her police role. In her first scene we see a kind of girlish
and childish nature to her character but I hoped she would
bring out her toughness in the action scenes. No such thing. She
is almost always spunky and that aspect is the worst during
the big climax of the movie. It's painful to watch her trying
to pull off some comedy which didn't need to be there in
the first place and how she got a best supporting actress
nomination is a mystery to me. No doubt a talented girl, just not this time.
Big Bullet no doubt should be criticized for abandoning what could've turned into a serious and even mature piece of action cinema
but don't take my criticism too hard. Watch it yourself and
you'll see that this is still a very entertaining Hong Kong
action movie. One of the better ones of the late 90s as a matter of fact.