Bullets Over Summer: ”There is nothing you should or shouldn’t do.”

Year:1999
Directed by Wilson Yip
Produced by Joe Ma Wai Ho
Written by Ben Cheung, Matt Chow and Wilson Yip
Cast: Louis Koo, Francis Ng, Yiu-Cheung Lai, Stephanie Lam Mei-Jing, Michelle Saram,Tony Ho Wah-Chiu, Helena Law Lan, and Lo Meng

Two cops ordered to track a vicious criminal take refuge in a nearby apartment to keep surveillance on the possible whereabouts of the vicious criminal.

Hong Kong cinema but especially during the 80s have long lionized the Hong Kong police force. Bullet Over Summers goes away from this tradition and peels away this lionization without indulging in unnecessary cynicism.

Bullets Over Summer takes the humdrum of being a police officer as a vehicle for some good character exploration. Francis Ng’s portrayal of Mike Lai is multilayered and complex. A certain sternness but with an immediate vulnerability that only Francis could play so well. Louis Koo’s Brian is the stock character that Louis usually plays, the boyish well-intended womanizer. Not too different from the typical archetypes found in other cop dramas, yet Mike and Brian flow differently. Perhaps, it is because Mike and Brian aren’t totally immersed in constantly over the top scenarios so both feel a lot close to home and more grounded in reality.

Despite a dynamic start akin to a buddy cop film and an unsettling massacre that is way too hyper realistic to enjoy in good taste, all of this fades away in favor of a personal melodrama. Action bookends the narrative but the majority of the screen time is taken up by personal drama. The awkward feeling of being stalled is hardly prominent enough to be annoying. The drama that takes root is heartwarming and well developed. A highlight is the demented granny, she ends up earning your warmth and trust. Her constant delusions rather than an excuse for a running gag is more of a sign of how Mike and Brian living with her has affected her. As Mike and Brian’s love interests join the sudden makeshift homelife in Granny’s home, Granny’s delusions take on a lifelike resonance. An awkward representation of what is supposed to be there. The details of the delusions are obviously fake, but the underlying heart behind her delusions feel inexplicably real. Bullets Over Summer’s family ”sitcomish” elements are the true cornerstones of the narrative despite everything stylistically suggesting otherwise.

Bullets Over Summer’s final arc is baffling for how arbitrarily it springs up, nonetheless, one could say it is a startling wake up call from the main plot literally walking in. It is a nice tipping point where the low keys elements of the story clashing with the more exaggerated elements. It is tense to the max and the subsequent shootout rightfully avoids slipping into John Woo-isms. What emerges out of this, isn’t some kind of simple heroes save the day situation but morally ambiguity takes hold as Mike’s mental decay affects him to the point of no return. It is a psychological trip. This pretend family not build on any biological connection being sustained by someone’s deranged actions is somehow fitting since the entire family was already constructed to appease someone else’s delusions.

Bullet Over Summers is an intentionally a disjointed experience. A family drama that fronts as a buddy cop film to explore how people fill in their emptiness in their emotional lives with something else. If I learned one thing from Bullets Over Summer is that people connecting leaves no room for a personal void.

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