THE MISSING GUN
Directed by Lu Chuan
Produced by Yang Buting, Wang Zhongjun, Jiang Wen & Cao Biao
Written by Lu Chuan
Director of Photograpy Xie Zhengyu
Music by Felling Band
Cast: Jiang Wen, Ning Jing, Wu Yujuan, Liu Xiaoning & Shi Liang
2002/90 mins/Color/5.1 Dolby Digital
1.85:1 anamorphic/Chinese/China/NTSC Region 1
Review from the Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainent DVD
When I sat down to watch THE MISSING GUN, I assumed that I would be viewing an action film as the movie is Chinese and the word "gun" is in the title. But, that couldn't have been further from the truth. What I got instead was an intriguing and original Kafkaesque thriller which played more like a European film.
As THE MISSING GUN opens, police detective Ma Shan (Wen Jiang) awakens from a deep sleep induced by the amount of alcohol which he'd consumed the night before at his sister's wedding. As he begins to get dressed for work, he realizes that his gun is missing. (The film is set in mainland China, where guns are forbidden to civilians.) He searches his house, but cannot find it. He then begins to roam the town, questioning everyone who was at the wedding. They all confirm that he was drunk at the ceremony, and that he got a ride home, but they all also have conflicting reports of who took him home and who he sat with at the wedding. When Ma Shan goes to the house of Zhou Xiaogang (Shi Liang) to question him, he is surprised to find that his old flame Li Xiaomeng (Ning Jing) has returned to the village. Taken aback by this, Ma Shan doesn't let this fact interrupt his search for the gun. However, things get worse when someone is shot to death and the bullets match Ma Shan's gun. Now, he is a homicide suspect and his superiors have given him a deadline to find the missing firearm.
THE MISSING GUN is the antithesis of the loud, over-the-top Chinese films which I'm accustomed to. This movie is hypnotically quiet and unassuming, but it's never boring. The movie instantly introduces the idea of the missing gun and takes off from there. There are no real action scenes in the film, but we are swept up into Ma Shan's search almost immediately and although we know very little about this sad-looking man, we want him to find his gun.
The film's very simple premise takes some mean turns as Ma Shan is constantly stymied in his efforts to learn the wheareabouts of his firearm. From his brain-dead brother-in-law to the town's inscrutable inhabitants, THE MISSING GUN takes us through a maze of mystery as Ma Shan becomes more and more desperate in his search. The story does become somewhat confusing at times (a subplot concerning bootleg liquor seems strangely out-of-place when it's first introduced) and the movie does run out of gas during the final reel, but THE MISSING GUN is enhanced by writer/director Lu Chuan's creative visual style, which keeps the camera moving, even when Ma Shan is not. (Also, the lack of a backstory for Ma Shan and the town hurt the story somewhat. It also didn't help that I know nothing about mainland China.) THE MISSING GUN isn't for everyone and many will find it too slow, but I was fascinated by this simple tale of how a misplaced item can change a man's life.
THE MISSING GUN shoots onto DVD courtesy of Columbia/Tri-Star Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.85:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. This is a glorious transfer, as the image is very sharp and clear, showing virtually no grain and only very minor defects from the source material. The image has a very nice depth of field and the clarity only adds to this. The colors look good and often stand out against the greyish background of the village. There are some mild problems from artifacting, but they aren't excessive. The DVD's Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is outstanding. From the moment in the beginning when a character drops a handful of marbles and the sound reverberates throughout the speakers, it's clear that we're in for an auditory feast. The dialogue is clear and audible at all times, and the use of surround sound and stereo effects is excellent. There is a noticeable lack of bass response, but that is a small price to pay for the abundance of surround sound action. The DVD features only a Chinese audio track, but the English subtitles are very easy to read. The only extra on the DVD is a trailer for THE MISSING GUN.
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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2004. ©