“Bullets Over Summer” is a Buddy Cop action-comedy with strong doses of drama and, dare I say it, Asian melodrama toward the end. Francis Ng (“2000 A.D.”) stars as Mike, a veteran cop teamed up with the young and hormonally-challenged Brian (Louis Koo). After a criminal name Dragon slaughters his way through a robbery, Mike and Brian sets up shop in the apartment building of an absent-minded old lady (Lan Law) in order to keep watch on one of Dragon’s associates living in another building across from them.
Directed by Wilson Yip (“2002”), “Bullets Over Summer” is more drama than it is a cop movie, but of course that doesn’t keep it from suffering through the same veteran cop-young cop cliché prominent in all Buddy Cop movies of its ilk. While there are doses of action, including a sequence of gunbattles between the cops and Dragon’s crew toward the end, the film seems more at home when it focuses on the cops and their relationships with Lan Law’s Granny and the other women in the movie. Actually I’m not completely certain if the screenplay ever makes up its mind if Granny is absent-minded, suffering from Alzheimer’s, or if it’s all an act to cure her loneliness.
Whatever the case, the end result is the same. Mike and Brian begin to feel kinship to the lonely woman, who in turn sort of “adopts” them as her grandsons. Rather she actually has grandsons or not remains open to interpretation. While on the stake-out, the perpetually horny Brian also falls for a young high school girl sent to live with them by one of their — get this — informants. And while Brian is doing all he can to convince the girl that he’s her new boyfriend and that she should stay with him and Mike at Granny’s apartment, Mike has become involved with a pregnant woman who runs a laundry service across the street.
The screenplay by Ben Cheung, Matt Chow, and director Yip is most at home when it ignores the cop stuff and focuses on the characters. I’ve never been all that impressed with Yip’s handling of action sequences, and “Summer” proves to be no exception. There’s a breezy, even throwaway, quality to the film’s action scenes that convinces me they’re afterthoughts rather than serious attempts. But since the movie is less concern with cop violence than it is about exploring its two male leads and what drives them, Yip can be forgiven for mediocre action. At least I didn’t mind this time around.
The star of “Summer” is of course Francis Ng, who gives a pitch perfect performance as Mike. Yip and the writers handle Mike’s relationship with Yuen, the laundry lady abandoned by her husband, with great delicacy. One gets the feeling that Mike isn’t attracted to Yuen more than he is determined to save the child she’s about to give birth to. An orphan himself, Mike knows what it’s like to grow up without parents, and it’s his principled belief that every child should know one’s parents that drives the film’s melodramatic climax.
If there is one gripe I have with the screenplay it’s the addition of Mike’s disease. The movie informs us about halfway in that Mike’s sometimes erratic behavior is due to a disease he has had for a long time now, and in time his physical ability will decline as a result. I’m not quite sure what the point of this disease is, because Mike’s behavior can easily be assigned to his serious nature, and the film’s ending certainly makes the presence of a disease moot.
“Bullets Over Summer” is a good, fun movie with a lot of heart. Brian and Mike’s mentor/brother relationship, as well as their interaction with the movie’s female characters, are handled well by the talented cast led by the terrific Francis Ng. While director Wilson Yip once again fails to show any real ability to shoot believable action scenes, at least he knows how to direct actors — and in a movie like “Summer”, that’s all that really matters.
Wilson Yip (director) / Ben Cheung, Matt Chow, Wilson Yip (screenplay)
CAST: Louis Koo….Brian
Mei Ching Lam