Bullet & Brain (2007)

Directed by: Venus Keung
Written by: Wong Jing
Producers: Wong Jing, Zhuan Li-Ji & Han Xiao-Li
Starring: Francis Ng, Anthony Wong, Alex Fong, Eric Tsang, Tiffany Tong, Liu Yang, Ma Shu-Chao & Andrew Wu

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When The Principal (Ma Shu-Chao) gets betrayed by his follower Winston (Andrew Wu), he makes sure to relay a code to a Swiss Bank Box to his granddaughter Rain (Tiffany Tong). She is soon the hunting object for Winston's men as he needs the money to go into the casino business with Simon Chung (Eric Tsang) but The Principal has left help on standby in the form of hitmen Bullet (Francis Ng) and Brain (Anthony Wong)...

No doubt Wong Jing's crap stuck rightly to the wall when obviously trying to ride the wave Infernal Affairs started. Writing a good, fairly layered script and co-directing when yet another man from decent-ville, Marco Mak (1*), Colour Of The Truth became a surprise critical hit in 2003. So on he rolled, like he usually does, churning out multiples of what pretty much was similar, generic cinema (but awfully good coming from this man) that came in the form of Colour Of The Truth and Wo Hu (all co-directed efforts). So something tells Wong Jing that he can and should pay a little bit more attention to his gangster formula and he has. Sitting back and letting otherwise cinematographer Venus Keung (2*) make his debut as a director, Bullet & Brain reunites some good ol' Infernal Affairs favourites and veterans while fresh faced pups are fortunately or unfortunately included to balance matters out. How much dedication comes from schlockmeister Wong Jing and the veterans, also otherwise happy to just BE in films? It can't be done with sole presence from any of these folks. It's different dedication in a way though. Because Bullet & Brain neither reeks off any low-brow gags or a serious take on the gangster-genre but instead steered by Keung/Wong to be a completely substance-free, over the top visual ride. And why think more when that's being delivered on a platter for you.

It takes a while for those intentions to come through and all kinds of early signs honor more the low-rent side of the genre filmmaking. Although opening rock video style with little sense as dancing and shooting goes on at the same time signals Venus Keung grabbing hold of us and letting us flow in the wind as rag dolls while he plays. Even casting fresh faced Alex Fong as a cop gets disapproval only to get approval as it makes very much sense this rookie cop acts and feels this dorky (he even drives under the speed limit!). And goofy design of gangsters isn't even up for critique as contrasting them will be the antics of Bullet and Brain and soon we realize Wong Jing is certainly not doing either of his regular things. Only common thread is that it's probably as usual very cheap. But a cool package doesn't cost much as it turns out.

Enter hitmen with heart, cool and high tech resources (despite playing Space Invaders in one scene) without a care for danger in the world. They are fun loving criminals who seems to know everything of what's going on and just introduces danger into the proceedings to make sure they aren't totally bored. Within all this, director Keung clearly shoots a good looking, cheap flick and also indulges in style that although hit and miss, sticks with the fact that the flick is about as substance-filled and dangerous as *insert your own symbolism*. The sparse action scenarios plays into the context of Bullet and Brain's fun time but is also way too flashy and close-cut to register as premium action cinema.

But perhaps it goes in line with the fact that we have a narrative, over the top characters that equals casual in an entertaining way. Personal drama is quickly told, suitably in your age old expository way but not dwelled upon as everyone is itching to go home soon. Just tick off what needs to be done, including plot and action so we could all go home happy, knowing we've learnt and gained nothing. And by god, it's kind of a genius idea by Wong Jing. So is a neat action scene involving rope and the Bullet and Brain steel van is so very comic book orientated that it then and there seals our approval of this ride.

Because Bullet & Brain doesn't think it's better than it is. It's a decision made early on and the experience equals a candy bar stand where we have the option of playing it safe. We get one of those bars we know we've tasted but it's unusually tasty despite being easily digestible once more. In this bar, Wong has packaged coolness in the form of Francis Ng and Anthony Wong who are clearly enjoying themselves and injected a new flavour in the form of Venus Keung who debuts with intentions and translates them too. Now THAT equals tasty and a cheer from 2-3 of us still following Hong Kong cinema.

The DVD:

Kam & Ronson presents the film in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, with anamorphic enhancement. The transfer is clean with suitable levels of colour and detail.

Audio options are Cantonese Dolby Digital 5.1, Cantonese DTS 5.1 and Mandarin Dolby Digital 5.1 but as I'm not equipped with such a system, my assessment of this disc aspect will be left off this review.

The English subtitles have a few tendencies to slip into classic flubtitle territory but never fail to come through with its intentions. Traditional and simplified Chinese subtitles are also included. A 7 minute, 38 second Making Of (no subtitles) and the trailer are the only extras.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson


(1) Also see The Blood Rules, Set To Kill and the recent Wo Hu. Literally, do see them.

(2) Protégé, Lost In Time, One Nite In Mongkok... a Derek Yee regular.