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Review: No story but lots of action in 'The Bullet Vanishes'

The Chinese detective flick is visually stunning but emotionally empty.

August 30, 2012|By Robert Abele
  • A scene from "The Bullet Vanishes."
A scene from "The Bullet Vanishes." (Handout )

The 1930s-set Chinese detective thriller "The Bullet Vanishes" owes a good deal of its period flashiness to the Guy Ritchie "Sherlock Holmes" approach: shoot a cavernous factory, a red light district and a gleaming-white coroner's workspace with equally exotic sumptuousness, and when it comes to action, don't miss a chance for effects work.

Director/co-writer Lo Chi-leung has a few nifty deductive twists in his tale of a detail-oriented cop (Lau Ching-wan) teamed with a headstrong young detective (Nicholas Tse). The pair investigates mysterious murders at a bullet factory that is supposedly haunted by the ghost of a young female worker who died under a cloud of suspicion. Yet any caseworking suspense is drowned out by an over-abundance of visual pizazz: disjointed shootouts, arbitrary camera angles and cinematography that draws the eye to lighting patterns, not people.

Then again, there's so much nerdy bullet-trajectory, ammunition-construction talk in this "CSI: Shanghai" that there's little room for anything resembling a story based in real emotion. The sole exception is a wintry outdoor chat with a whisper-voiced, imprisoned murderess about bad people doing good things, or why good people do bad things, or something.

But the blanket of snow and the prison architecture sure are pretty.

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"The Bullet Vanishes." No MPAA rating; In Mandarin with English and Chinese subtitles. Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes. At AMC Atlantic Times Square 14, Monterey Park; AMC Puente Hills 20, Rowland Heights.

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