Bullets Over Summer (1999)

Directed by: Wilson Yip
Written by: Wilson Yip, Matt Chow & Cheung Man
Producer: Joe Ma
Starring: Francis Ng, Louis Koo, Helena Law Lan, Michelle Mok & Joe Lee

Buy the DVD at:
HK Flix.com

Award at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2000:
Best Actress (Helena Law Lan)

Nominations at the Hong Kong Film Awards 2000:
Best Actor (Francis Ng)
Best Sound Design

Awards at the Hong Kong Film Critics Society Awards 2000:
Best Actor (Francis Ng)
Best Actress (Helena Law Lan)
Best Screenplay (Wilson Yip, Matt Chow, Cheung Man)
Film of Merit

Wilson Yip's breakthrough as a director came with the horror comedy Bio Zombie, made in 1998. After that he choose to make movies in a wide variety of genres such as action (Skyline Cruisers), romantic drama (Juliet In Love) and sci-fi (2002). It was with Skyline Cruisers that he was given a chance to direct a big budget movie with established stars. After seeing the movie, the critics were all in agreement that this was not the best Wilson Yip had to offer as a director. Gone was the great characterization as well as the solid drama aspects of some of his previous works. I truly despised Skyline Cruisers but decided to step backwards in the Wilson Yip filmography and there I found Bullets Over Summer, made in 1999.

Mike (Francis Ng from Juliet In Love) and Brian (Louis Koo from La Brassiere) are partners at the Hong Kong Police Force. Brian is the childish one of the two, while Mike is the more serious and hot-tempered one. They both get assigned to a stakeout which could give some good leads in the hunt of a cold blooded robber known only as Dragon (Wilson Yip regular Joe Lee). That stakeout takes place in an apartment occupied by an senile old granny (Helena Law Lan) who resists the idea at first but soon thinks that the two police are actually her long lost grandchildren. They play along and Mike especially bonds with the old woman...

If you had to put this movie into a genre, I guess you could call it a cop-comedy but director Yip puts a nice spin to that genre. After quite a brutal and bloody opening, the movie slows down and becomes a warm and low-key characterdrama. We're also treated to several very funny moments courtesy of Helena Law Lan's character.

It's this part of the movie that Wilson Yip really shows us viewers a spellbinding study of characters who find each other through similar emotional scars. Yip and director of photography Lam Wah-Chuen almost makes us forget about the camera and instead we're in awe of the excellent performances on display here. Francis Ng impressed me the most with his character
that has a tough exterior but a warm and gentle person comes out in his bonding with "Granny".The rest of the cast does really well but it's quite obvious that Yip and his co-writer Matt Chow wanted the majority of the focus on Francis Ng and Helena Law Lan's characters.

The last act of the movie has some weaknesses though. After a warm and tender middle part, the movie goes a bit too far in terms of the violence presented but also the final act of the movie doesn't feel entirely satisfying. I can understand what Yip was aiming at but it just didn't click all the way. It's not bad on a technical level but there were still some misjudgment on the filmmakers part, sadly. Wilson Yip is a young and very interesting director and I think he will go to even greater things in the future. He seems to be willing to try out different approaches and learn from whatever mistakes he does.

Bullets Over Summers mixture of action and drama doesn't work all the way and the above mentioned ending does hurt the movie a bit, but it's still a very enjoyable little movie that deserves to be seen. If you're curious about Wilson Yip's earlier work, then this is the movie to start with.

The DVD:

Another remaster from Mei Ah, framed at 1.78:1 with anamorphic enhancement. Previous transfer always felt a bit on the bright side but that is toned down to an even level with this new dvd (a few scenes registers a bit on the dark side though). Sharpness and details are good for this low budget production that isn't exactly on the glossy side for starters. It may be part of the design but hues seemed overly red at times, also an issue with the old disc. Mei Ah didn't go back to remove the dirt on the print either which isn't a distracting flaw but worth noting. Some comparison shots between the versions:

(Old Mei Ah, top, 16:9 remaster, bottom)

(Old Mei Ah, top, 16:9 remaster, bottom)

Sound options for the Cantonese track are Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1. Dialogue isn't always smoothly recorded on set and while the front stage is pleasantly active, the mix is uneven because of the clarity differences in sound elements. Same sound options are selectable in Mandarin.

The optional English subtitles are exactly the same as the previous dvd. Problems like bad spelling and grammar structure appear a few times but the translation does very well overall.

First extra is the trailer that has small snippets of deleted footage (see below). Even lobby cards made at the time showed stills not in the film. The Data Bank has text screens with the synopsis and a cast & crew listing.

(Deleted footage from the trailer)

The Making Of, previously only available on the vcd edition makes its dvd debut, lasting 10 minutes and 22 seconds. No subtitles are provided except for the movie clips and Michelle Mok does her interview in English. Co-writer Matt Chow basically is the host of the program that obviously is low on information for non-Cantonese speakers but a montage of behind the scenes footage nicely rounds off the segment. Among other things we get to see director Wilson Yip working on set and imitating Bruce Lee plus the shooting of one of the deleted scenes. Worth the upgrade from the previous Mei Ah dvd? Absolutely, despite the slightly higher price tag.

reviewed by Kenneth Brorsson