Thoughts: I believe The Bullet Vanishes will be a far more rewarding experience on a second viewing, because the story is far too convoluted, and packed with twists and double-takes, making it quite difficult to keep up during a first pass. A second viewing shouldn't be difficult though, because the visuals and audio are really quite astounding. It's basically a HK Sherlock Holmes, slow-mo, fisticuffs, bullets and all. But, because of the great cinematography, NO SHAKY CAM IN SIGHT! Hooray!
Nicholas Tse plays a hot-headed young cop with the fastest draw in town. Ching Wan Lau is the Holmes of the piece: an eccentric, anti-social newly christened detective with an unnatural ability to see things others can't, deducing answers beyond normal means. They happen to become partners, with their first case being very similar to the recent Detective Dee & The Mystery Of The Phantom Flame; that of mysteriously dead bodies with missing bullets, showing up at a gun and bullet manufacturing concern, with the ominous message written in blood "The phantom bullet will kill you all." It's up to our two detectives, and their trusty sidekick, to sniff out who- or what- is responsible, before everyone ends up dead.
The story is fairly basic, just overly complex, but upon further thought, there seems to be a fair bit more to the characters than in Guy Ritchie's action blockbuster. Retrospectively, characters seem to have more depth, more nuance than on first viewing, with a variety of motivations allowing one to see all sorts of moments in a completely new light. The films final few story beats are more than enough to warrant a second viewing, and I think will make the time a far more fulfilling exercise than the initial run-through. There's just too many names, faces, and turns to consider when trying to keep up with all the new information piled on.
But in my opinion, aside from the great actors ( I like Ching Wan Lau- he was the mad detective in Mad Detective!) the real star here was the visuals and the audio. My god, the visuals! I don't think I've ever seen such a clear, precise picture on a movie screen. Clarity was astounding, and the lighting, colour and cinematography were all really well done. The audio for this film is particularly important; with a lot of the sequences and deductions involving the use of sound cues, and they are handled very, very effectively. I mean, I don't usually jump in films, but within the first few minutes I felt like I had a freakin' coronary because of a particular sound moment. It was then that I knew I was in for a treat, technically speaking. And, what cinematography! The film constantly keeps things fresh with smart camera angles and pans, some very fun flashbacks in "figuring out scenes" like in Sherlock Holmes, with some very fun use of filters and colours. But most importantly, NO SHAKY CAM. All the fight scenes are done with proper, solid camerawork. That's enough to get a big thumbs up in my book.
That said, there is a lot, and I mean A LOT of talking; deducing, back and forths, threats and sneaky dealings. The 2nd act seemed to consist of a lot of talking, and this could be a dealbreaker. But the more I look back, the more I think all those bits would work much better the 2nd time around.
In my opinion, this was much better in retrospect, and the more I think about the film, the more I want to rewatch it. Especially how it made me feel like I was watching a blu-ray in full Home Theatre mode. Only a few more decades until I have my own!