The Bullet Vanishes


How do you escape a noose? Can a gun shoot without bullets? Can you remove a chopstick from an empty wine bottle without touching the bottle? Forensic parlor games form the backbone of Lo Chi-leung’s The Bullet Vanishes, a drama set in an industrial town in 1930s China. It’s stylish like Amélie was stylish, with those dewy-yet-crisp graphics celebrating the proletariat. Here, the crooked boss of a bullet factory—as if there’s any other kind of bullet-factory boss—compels the Russian roulette death of a worker. (This movie is obsessed with Russian roulette.) The worker’s ghost, the rumor goes, is what’s firing those invisible bullets avenging her forced suicide. When two charming detectives are sent in to detect stuff, the movie comes to life with their antsy, noose-escaping, quasi-vaudevillian kinetics. The factory boss tries to throw them off his trail, grimacing from atop a ginormous zoot suit. No dice. Also, no sense. You don’t attend movies like this expecting narrative clarity, which is good, because the writing whizzes past key plot points like a bullet past an earlobe. The boss is guilty, obvies, but remind me why that other dude is responsible, too? And why should I care that the fat guy’s ring was found in the ashes of the house fire? Whatever, the climax is a slow-motion explosion. An explosion at a bullet factory!