Bullets over Summer

This is a film that is made up of some absolutely terrific scenes – some very tense, some very touching. To some degree it is unfocused – going off in many direction – and yet much of the film is very compelling in the way it  touches a few lives in a humanistic manner. Within the structure of a cop film, it manages to say something about the need for community and sacrifice. Regrettably, the final scenes feel very misplaced and damage what had been a very different kind of cop movie.

The acting in the film is terrific all around from the leads – Francis Ng, Louis Koo, Helena Law Lan – to the supporting players and they all will very much make the viewer care about the outcome of the film.

Francis Ng and Louis Koo
The first two scenes get the film off to an adrenaline driven start. Two cops – Ng and Koo – have been tipped off that a convenience store is being robbed. From the first moments, the different personalities of the cops are put on display – Ng is like a coiled spring – intense and focused while Koo is nearly the opposite – relaxed and casual about everything. But they are the very closest of friends. A female hostage is taken and her blouse ripped open – and Koo loses his concentration by staring at her partially revealed bosom – but then comments that they look phony which distracts the bad guy just long enough for them to take him.
Ng, Koo and Mok Pui-lam
Next a really major league bad guy – Dragon – robs a jewelry store and without a moments hesitation kills bunches of bystanders and cops in a bloody shootout. Ng and Koo get another tip that Dragon may show up at a certain apartment. So they are assigned to stake it out and thus they commandeer the apartment across the street. The film abruptly changes tracks here as it becomes practically a warm wonderful family drama.

Helena Law Lan owns the apartment and she is this kindly, but quite senile old lady. She soon forgets the two of them are cops and thinks they are family and starts treating them that way. And the boys become very fond of her and even get involved in the business of the co-op! Add to this that both end up with little romances – as Koo courts the sister of their informant – Mok Pui-lam – and Ng falls for a pregnant dry cleaner (Lam Mei-jing) who has been deserted by the father of the baby. Ng who was brought up in an orphanage finally feels that he is part of a family and there are some very warm understated scenes played out.

Ng and Lam Mei-jing
Of course, Dragon does finally show up and the film once again shifts gears dramatically. The director – Wilson Yip (Bio-Zombie) has a real knack for creating and maintaining a very tense scene. He slowly unfolds them – using freeze frame or slo-mo - increases the tension through music – and keeps quite an edge on them. Two scenes in the film are paced perfectly.
In one Ng investigates the apartment across the street while the fellow is out. He of course returns – and Ng has to hide on top of the metal sheeting roof of the balcony. The fellow suspects someone has been there and listens carefully. Ng accidentally drops a coin and it rolls and rolls for what seems forever towards where the fellow is standing below. At the same time Helena starts waving to him, but the bad guy thinks she is waving and talking to him. It is a brilliant scene.
Later – an unthinking Helena invites Dragon and his men to dinner – and he accepts – and the two cops immediately know who he is, but can’t do anything. If Dragon finds out during the meal that they are cops, there will be a deadly shootout. This dinner scene plays out slowly and every moment is fraught with tension.
Dragon being invited to dinner
Without going into detail, the ending is very odd and confusing as the behavior of Ng and Koo go very much against their character and I can’t imagine how the director could have made such a mis-step after having up until then directed a very personable, subtle and intriguing film. Still this was a very good film and though all the actors are terrific, the performance from Ng was absolutely outstanding – and the smaller role of the dry cleaner also was very well done. I hope to see more of Lam Mei-jing in future films.
The very intense Francis Ng

My rating for this film: 8.0