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In a province in China, Detective Ma Shan wakes up on the day after the wedding party of his sister Ma Juan and finds that his gun with three bullets is missing. Ma Shan drank too much in the party and does not recall what might have happen with his weapon. He falls in disgrace with his superiors and investigates who might have stolen the gun. When his former sweetheart Li Xiaomeng is found dead with a shot of his weapon, he becomes the prime suspect. When the police force arrests his acquaintance Zhou Xiaogang, he discloses that Li Xiaomeng was accidentally killed since his friend was the real target of the murderer. Ma Shan uses Zhou Xiaogang as a bait to lure and arrest the criminal an retrieve his missing gun.Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
A bit slow, but an interesting culture lesson for Americans
Anyone expecting a John Woo/Ringo Lam-type actioner will be sorely disappointed by this Chinese film, "The Missing Gun." Director Lu Chuan adopts western film-making techniques, but paces his film deliberately, not hurrying through the motions or adopting slam-bang action to tell his story.
You could draw parallels to Walter Hill's "48 HRS." (1982) and Akira Kurosawa's "Stray Dog" (1949), both of which dealt with similar stories of a police officer losing his handgun, which falls into the hands of a criminal.
"The Missing Gun" isn't as action-packed as Hill's film or as perceptive and intriguing as Kurosawa's. Then again, emulating Kurosawa is no easy task.
But the film provides an interesting lesson about gun culture. In this country, we have a nation obsessed with owning firearms. In "The Missing Gun," the protagonist is a police officer Ma Shan (Jiang Wen) facing embarrassment, ridicule and shame for having lost his service pistol. Private ownership of guns is banned so the police know exactly how many bullets are left in the weapon.
I am not advocating banning gun-ownership in this country, but "The Missing Gun" provides an intriguing cultural lesson, especially when we have an American president and congressional leaders who kowtowed to the gun lobby and recently let lapse the assault weapons ban, apparently not seeing the harm in letting the public purchase Uzis and AK-47s. Someone has still to explain to me why these weapons are needed to hunt.
"The Missing Gun" does not adopt film-making styles seen in the works of Zhang Yimou or Chen Kaige. This film definitely has a western influence. The camera moves quickly, there are quick cuts and for a low-budget film - it was apparently shot for about $250,000 - the cinematography is spectacularly good. But instead of clichéd storytelling techniques, Lu Chuan gives us some novelty. There's a delightful chase scene and his characters certainly aren't conventional. Ma Shan spends much of the first act asking various people whether they've stolen his gun. But there's a sense of mystery to all this, because we're never sure if they're being truthful. And the director opts for a denouement that's unexpected, especially if you've grown up with American films.
"The Missing Gun" is by no means a masterpiece. But it offers more insight into human nature than much of what Hollywood churns out these days. And if you're in the mood for something different, a film that takes its time unraveling the mystery, this film has much to offer the discriminating moviegoer.
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