The story involves a bandit who (by means of falsified identity) takes the position of governor in a rural province circa 1919. The fake politician proves to be a man of the people, taking on the struggle of “Justice! Justice! And bloody justice!” against the wealthy gangster who runs the town. Writer/director/actor Wen Jiang is engaging as the decent-souled imposter, and Yun-Fat Chow makes an amusing turn as the clownish villain, abusive to subjects and subordinates alike. But all the violence (one ill-advised rape scene aside) is goofy, all the conflicts mild.
The script draws several grins and a fair number of laughs, but something is no doubt lost in translation. The timing on the dialogue is so rapid-fire that the subtitles are often gone before we’ve read half of what someone has said. English-speaking audiences may have a tough time keeping pace with the jokes.
Many of the scenes run too long, and much of the plot is convoluted just to be convoluted: mistaken identities, decoys, doppelgängers. The ultimate goal of the film is summed up best by Chow’s character: “Confuse everyone.”
Reviewed in the movie listings: The Forgiveness of Blood, A Thousand Words, Undefeated.