At a munitions plant in Tiancheng, a series of inexplicable murders are being investigated where the bullets used are said to vanish after the murder. Former prison investigator and brilliant scholar Song Donglu (Lau Ching Wan) is newly arrived in town and is paired with local detective Guo (Nicholas Tse) on the case. As they search for the secret behind the mysterious killings they find that the town has secrets of its own and not everyone is what they seem.
More than a little influenced by the recently released and very successful Sherlock Holmes films from Guy Ritchie, director Lo Chi Leung sets the stage for a period mystery that keeps you guessing and is a heck of a fun, entertaining ride. Oozing with style and visual panache, the film is a stunningly beautiful work. Interesting camera angles, dynamic lighting, and a great mix of techniques highlight the look of the film and draw the viewer into the world of a mystery detective. A tight script courtesy of Lo as well as Yeung Sin-ling keeps the story at a good clip and features misdirections aplenty punctuated by snappy dialogue and terrific logic and the occasional scene of violence including a very good gunfight in a multi story warehouse and stairwell.
Lau and Tse have very good chemistry and their experience in the business is more than evident. Both exude cool and they are leads which are easy to get behind. An extended cast of solid supporting members includes the likes of Yang Mi, Boran Jing, and a delightfully sleazy Liu Kai-chi as the boss of the plant. A surprising cameo by Chin Kar-lok was welcome and his scene is memorable especially within the context of the film.
Set design is very good with the township of Tiancheng coming to life on screen. Large sets, populated streets, and set dressings are all top notch and really add to the look and immersion of the picture. Music is stirring and well placed. Composer Teddy Robin, along with a handful of contributors, has exciting songs for action bits and inquisitive tunes for the multiple scenes where investigations and detective work take place.
A huge success upon its release, The Bullet Vanishes was a film that was among my lost films in a cinema heavy 2012. Better late than never I guess. It is a hugely entertaining and completely compelling murder mystery that features great performances and a great presentation. It is a lot of fun and a bit of a headscratcher as to why it hasn’t been licensed for North American release. While hardly a game changer in film, The Bullet Vanishes is a well done big budget and big name picture that is pure entertainment. See it.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Sherlock Holmes, Blood Brothers, and/or Princess Toyotomi