BY DAYNA PAPALEO
“Let The Bullets Fly”
(NR), written and directed by Jiang Wen
Screens Friday at the Dryden
It’s been two decades since John Woo’s seminal action classic “Hard Boiled,” but the intervening years have done nothing to dim the charisma of Hong Kong cinema god Chow Yun-Fat, who has settled into middle age with a serene yet swaggering grace. Too rarely on American movie screens — and why is that exactly? — Chow stars as the bad guy in director Jiang Wen’s wickedly funny 20’s-set crime comedy “Let The Bullets Fly,” the current titleholder for highest-grossing film in Chinese history. Actually, “badder guy” might be more accurate, since the film’s ostensible hero, Pocky Zhang (played by Jiang, who also co-wrote the script) is a bandit pretending to be the new mayor of the town run by Chow’s gangster Huang Fox.
Zhang, in turn, received his fake appointment by bullying a con man named Ma Bangde (Ge You) and his shrewd wife (Wong Kar Wai regular Carina Lau), which allows “Let The Bullets Fly” to play out in madcap fashion, with unexpected complications, shifting allegiances, and witty screwball banter mixed with the broadest of humor. Surrounded by lovely period production design, the pleasure found in this occasionally bloody film lies with the chemistry among the three male leads. The scenes between Chow and Jiang are especially mesmerizing, and not just because they’re both easy on the eyes. It’s like watching a careful poker game as the two wily veteran crooks keep their cards close and their guns closer.