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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.


"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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