Director: Andrew Lau Wai-Keung
Cast: Leon Lai Ming, Asaka Seto, Terence Yin, Richard Sun Kwok-Ho, Michael Chan Wai-Man, Ng Chi-Hung, Ronald Cheng Chung-Kei, Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Yuen Wai-Ho, Yu Ka-Ho
Japanese actress Asaka Seto is the best thing about this Andrew Lau action-thriller, which is entertaining if not a little uncomfortable. The execution is solid, but the emotional leap required by the audience may be a little too much. Ultimately, this is a decent film that probably could have amounted to more than it did.
Hong Kong Cinema goes recruiting in Japan again, and they come up looking good. Following in the footsteps of fellow Japanese Drama megastars Takako Tokiwa and Takashi Sorimachi is Asaka Seto, who gets two roles in the Andrew Lau thriller Bullets of Love. Seto acquits herself well, showing charisma and range. The movie itself doesn't match her efforts, but it's a reasonably entertaining effort.
Leon Lai stars as Sam, a kick-ass Hong Kong cop who's engaged to beautiful Hong Kong prosecutor Ann (Asaka Seto playing Chinese). The two are teamed on a case to take down vicious bad guy Night (the glowering Terence Yin), but only succeed in putting the bastard away for three years. Apparently three years is still too much for the multi-felonious Night, who swears undying revenge. He sics a dour Japanese female assassin on the couple while they vacation in Paris. Before Sam knows it, he's out a fiancee and sent into a funk.
Three years later, Sam has moved to the rural island of Tai O and is now a fisherman. His life consists of fishing (duh) and hanging with the locals (Chan Wai-Man, Ng Chi-Hung and Ronald Cheng, among others), though he still pines for his departed lawyer girlfriend. However, hope arrives in the form of You (Asaka Seto again!), a Japanese tourist who's the spitting image of Ann. As you'd expect Sam falls hard for the dead ringer, and after a period of extraneous activity, she returns the feeling. However, Night is due to get released soon and plans revenge. And You may not be all that she seems.
The emotional hook of Bullets of Love hinges on a slightly creepy plot detail that never feels quite right. That detail itself is no big surprise (if you can't figure out who You really is, then you really should stop sleeping during movies), but it's one that might not sit right with everyone. Despite Seto's charming performances as both Ann and You, the reality of who she's supposed to be just feels wrong. It would work in a much darker film, but Bullets of Love resists that with bouncy interludes on Lamma Island and humanizing outings with its fun supporting cast.
Bullets of Love probably would have been better had it been something like Beyond Hypothermia, which featured a satisfying romantic/nihilistic take on the cold-blooded hitwoman tale. However, the cinematic execution of those themes is probably something beyond Andrew Lau's talents. He's a competent storyteller, but his films are ultimately glossy exercises, and his use of style is nothing more than attention-getting excess. His directorial choices aren't always in the service of the film, and that seems to be the case here.
The film has its positives, though. Seto turns in a fine performance, managing far more than her Sky King co-star Leon Lai. Lai's problem isn't his wooden screen persona - it's the fact that he seems to possess no life other than that which his characters explicitly display. There's Mad Leon, Sad Leon, Happy Leon and sometimes Wacky Leon. All the above Leons are actually quite effective, but they're not very subtle. Supporting players Chan Wai-Man, Ronald Cheng and Ng Chi-Hung do a fine job with their smaller roles, and manage to add some life to the proceedings. Bullets of Love has some stuff to recommend, and it's not a bad film at all. It just isn't as good as it probably could have been.