1911 (2011)

1911 [辛亥革命] (2011)
AKA 1911 Revolution

Starring Jackie Chan, Winston Chao Wen-Hsuan, Li Bing-Bing, Sun Chun, Joan Chen, Jiang Wu, Jaycee Chan Cho-Ming, Hu Ge, Ning Jing, Yu Shao-Qun, Dennis To, Huang Zhi-Zhong, Mei Ting, Xing Jia-Dong, Bobo Hu Ming, Huo Qing, Qi Dao, Tao Ze-Ru, Olivia Wang Zi-Wen, Michael Lacidonia

Directed by Jackie Chan & Zhang Li

Expectations: I don’t expect traditional Jackie.


1911 was released in 2011 to celebrate the centennial of the momentous rebellion that ended 2,000 years of imperial rule and established the Republic of China. It is a film painted in broad strokes, seeking to tell the story of the Xinhai Revolution from the Second Guangzhou Uprising (April 27, 1911) to the swearing in of Yuan Shikai as the second Provisional President of the Republic of China. Major players like Sun Yat-Sen (Winston Chao Wen-Hsuan) and Huang Xing (Jackie Chan) are well-represented, but the film isn’t specifically about them; it’s about China and the overall effort of all involved that led to the revolution’s success. This makes 1911 more detached and broad than is traditional in American historical films, but it does exactly what it sets out to do very well. It’s a film likely to divide audiences, but I definitely enjoyed it and look forward to revisiting it in the future.

The film begins five months before the Second Guangzhou Uprising, as the members of the Tongmenghui are gathered in Malaysia for the 1910 Penang conference. There Sun Yat-Sen and the other leaders (such as Huang Xing) planned the upcoming uprising against the corrupt Qing government. The men are on the brink of going to war, but we see them in the quiet days beforehand, when they are still able to enjoy frolicking on the Malaysian beach. After the meeting, Sun Yat-Sen left to continue fundraising efforts among the overseas Chinese sympathetic to the cause. Over the course of 1911, we follow both Sun Yat-Sen in the US and Huang Xing as he leads the troops into battle. The importance of both men’s actions (and hundreds of others, as well) is brought into sharp focus by crafting the film like this, and it becomes easy to understand how the rebellion was able to succeed despite going up against the much more powerful Qing government. It was a war on two fronts, waged physically and mentally.

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Let the Bullets Fly (2010)

Let the Bullets Fly [讓子彈飛吧] (2010)

Starring Jiang Wen, Chow Yun-Fat, Ge You, Shao Bing, Liao Fan, Du Yi-Heng, Li Jing, Zhang Mo, Wei Xiao, Carina Lau, Zhou Yun, Yao Lu, Jiang Wu

Directed by Jiang Wen

Expectations: Moderate. I’ve heard good and bad things.


Let the Bullets Fly is a very interesting multi-genre movie, but if you go in with expectations that Chow Yun-Fat will resurrect his past with John Woo by letting some heroic bullets fly, you might as well not watch it. It’s nothing like that at all. At its heart it’s a comedy, one which may or may not make it through the translation depending on your sense of humor, but it’s a comedy built on the framework of a town western with sprinkles of action mixed in very frugally. It’s also a drama, with some excellent back-and-forth dialogue scenes between the great actors. But none of these elements make the film great individually, it’s how they all work together to create a cohesive narrative that takes the film and makes it fly like the titular bullets.

A group of bandits led by Pocky Zhang (Jiang Wen, and also our director) hijacks a horse-drawn train transporting the new governor of Goose Town. He hopes to find a bounty of silver inside the cabin, but instead he only finds the snivelling governor and his wife. They tell Zhang that the money he seeks can be found in Goose Town, so the bandits, with the governor and his wife in tow, travel there and Zhang poses as the new governor. This raises the ire of local mob boss Huang (Chow Yun-Fat), and before we know it we’re locked into an intense, and hilarious, battle of wills between the two.

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