Guns N' Roses (Mandarin)Written by administrator
No, Guns N' Roses isn’t a rock biopic about the American hardrock band. But Ning Hao’s latest dark comedy-action flick deals out its fair share of excitement and hard-hitting action nonetheless. Set in Japanese-occupied Manchuria in the 1930s, Ning Hao’s Guns N' Roses is an acerbic dark comedy telling the tale of small-time crook and amateur magician, Xiao Dong Bei (Lei Jia Yin), as he accidentally falls into the company of a troupe of actors-turned-revolutionaries in the midst of a politically-driven gold heist. With this group of revolutionaries, he gets dragged along on a series of crimes that are way out of his league, runs into the strangest life-or-death situations, and even finds an unexpected romantic arc with the daughter of the mark of one of their heists.
Although the film somewhat falters from the outset due to its slow plot exposition that’s more confusing than enigmatic, it quickly picks up the pace by the time it hits the half-hour mark. Director Ning Hao spends the length of the film trying to find a balance between action and humor, and for the most part he succeeds. Equal parts heartfelt and tongue-in-cheek, Guns N' Roses really wins out with the compelling action sequences, at times backed by some really unexpected music cues such as Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, making these quirkily written scenes hard to not fall in love with.
As much as Guns N' Roses indubitably packs a punch, it loses steam when it runs into a classic case of clumsy scripting, and the plot gets so busy it comes across as frantic. The second half of the film also feels like one long game of “Guess Which Fade-To-Black is the Real One?” The combination of writing and direction seems to hesitate on where’s best to leave the greatest dramatic emphasis, and ends up with a few different attempts at that. There’s an impressive final showdown – except, not final. At all. That would have been a brilliant place to leave the movie at, but instead the action carries on further into the resolution of the movie, and it gets incredibly boring after a while. I hardly find myself vehemently wishing for characters to “just please die already” but Guns N' Roses really brought out that vitriol in me.
At least its failures in pacing are largely made up for by charismatic characters brought to life by strong performances from the principal cast. Lei Jia Yin – for whom the film is his big screen debut – provides the heart of the film: a nuanced and sympathetic antihero who is likeable and blameable all at once; Lei tackles the role with an impeccable sense of comic timing that doesn’t once compromise his character’s emotional arc.
The rest of the film’s type characters feel very reminiscent of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, although some do come into their own more than others. Tao Hong delivers an edgy performance as Fang Die, the movie star leader of the motley crew of revolutionaries, who wields a smoking gun with as much glamour and badassery as she does a cigarette – in a manner that is so bona fide femme fatale. The only downside is that the rest of Fang Die’s troupe of actors-turned-revolutionaries, while being incredibly colourful on a solely surficial level, largely falls into anonymity without the room or opportunity for proper character development.
Summary: As a story, Guns and Roses leaves a little more to be wanted in terms of narrative coherency, but doesn’t fail to deliver an enjoyable and compelling rollercoaster of an action-comedy flick in spite of this.
Rating: 3 out of 5