The comedy action film Let the Bullets Fly (让子弹飞) last week became the highest-grossing Chinese film of all time. The previous holder of that record, Aftershock, the blockbuster drama about the 1976 Tangshan earthquake and its aftermath, had earned RMB647 million (about US$100 million). At last report, Let the Bullets Fly had surpassed it with RMB660 million. Other reports have the domestic box office record by Aftershock at RMB673 million, but as Let the Bullets Fly is still showing in cinemas, this figure too should be overtaken sometime during the Spring Festival holiday season.
Let the Bullets Fly is directed by Jiang Wen (姜文), who also stars in it alongside Chow Yun-Fat (周润发, pinyin: Zhōu Rùnfā) and Ge You (葛优). Produced by the State-run China Film Group, it was released in mid-December to favourable reviews and even stronger word of mouth. It has been variously described as an Eastern Western or Oriental Western, and mixes action, a bit of violence and plenty of laughs. This contrasts it with the previous box office kings Aftershock and The Founding of a Republic, whose worthy and uplifting subject matters would certainly have pleased the Chinese authorities. Some observers (the Screening China blog is just one example) have noted how Let the Bullets Fly pushes the boundaries with its satirical take on official corruption.
Despite its success Let the Bullets Fly still falls well short of the overall record for box office receipts in China. The US blockbuster Avatar, released earlier in 2010, holds that record with box office earnings of $US207 million (RMB1,362 million). Box office figures were taken from the Film Business Asia, The Hollywood Reporter and People's Daily websites.