Bullets of Love

If I had realized that Andrew Lau had directed this film, it’s very likely that I would have passed on it like a bad itch, but it wasn’t until the opening credits were rolling that I noticed this. I have generally not been a fan of his films from the Young and Dangerous series through his CGI driven action films – A Man Called Hero and Storm Riders. His films just tend to be too slick and full of false bombastic GQ heroism for my taste – too much male model glamour and not enough real grit.
Bullets of Love though is a much more modest work than one might expect from Lau and instead of utilizing his usual heroically profiled actor, Ekin Cheng, he turns to the more subdued and average joe type Leon Lai. This makes for a fairly satisfying outing that is admittedly a bit of a mish-mash but an intriguing one that tickles the edge of perversity and is often less than upbeat. The film comes in almost four sections that feel very different from one another – police procedural, romance, healing and bloodshed. The mood of the film switches like the seasons as it moves forward but Leon’s low-key performance and the brooding often barely seen presence of a merciless female assassin constantly anchor it.
The female assassin as the protagonist in Hong Kong film is a much respected one – almost always stylish, beautiful and extremely deadly – they claim your affection as easily as they claim another victim. In nearly all of these films love rears its ugly head and makes the assassin all too human, all too vulnerable. This film follows that formula to some degree, but there are elements of bizarre obsession that take this into new territory and pull the emotions of the viewer in unexpected directions. Much to the film’s credit, it is willing to take its time – almost in a leisurely manner – to fill in not only the main characters – but also a number of the supporting characters. This creates a situation where the fate of everyone really seems to matter.

Not to go into too much detail on this – and avoid reading the blurb on the back of the DVD if you don’t want to know most of the plot points – but Leon runs a Serious Crime unit that is after a gang headed by Terence Yin – in as smarmy and sleazy a performance as you will want. He is finally captured by Leon and sentenced to a few years in jail after being prosecuted by Leon’s lawyer girlfriend, Asaka Seto (a Japanese actress) – but Yin has in his hire a female assassin and orders her to kill Leon. She is as Leon points out to Asaka   - a cruel killer who shoots her victim in three precise points that will kill him – but so slowly that he will have time to realize that death is coming for him. This is shown in graphic detail in a swift and memorable Michael Tse cameo. The killer though has ideas other than simple revenge and she plays them out in a way that is both psychologically sick and yet bittersweet sentimental and in the end very bloody.

Leon’s restrained personality works well here for the most part – circumstances are such that it makes sense – but there were certainly opportunities to really stretch this character in some morbidly fascinating ways, but Leon wisely stays clear of trying that with his limited range. Showing up also in supporting roles on Lamma Island are Michael Chan and Ng Chi-hung in excellent non-triad performances.

My rating for this film: 7.0