Movie Review: Bullets Over Petaling Street (2014 Malaysian film)

Debbie Goh in Bullets Over Petaling Street still

‘Bullets Over Petaling Street’ requires a lot of patience to sit through

With Chinese New Year celebrations coming to an end and the festive mood long faded, it would take something very special to attract the local audience to still go for a Chinese film instead of Hollywood blockbusters, and unfortunately, Bullets Over Petaling Street just don’t cut it. The notable political satires and good acting performance will not be enough to compensate the tiresome cliches and long, unfunny scenes.

The plot of Bullets Over Petaling Street is basically about Angel (played by Debbie Goh), a famous actress, who stumbles into replacing her boyfriend as the leader of a triad. Although the film is very cliched and illogical, it shouldn’t be taken too seriously as it is meant to be a nonsensical “action comedy”. But the problem is that the film is just not funny at all. And I believe it’s not just me – during the media screening, I heard only a total of one or two individual laughters in the whole 90 minutes. Some of the longer scenes really tested my patience as they either mount up to a cringeworthy gag, or just something totally predictable or pointless. For example, this scene:

Angel: “What happened to the money allocated to fund my movie?”
Elder triad member: “I can’t tell you….”
Angel: “Tell me now!”
Elder triad member: “I promised the boss I’d keep it a secret.”
Angel: “I’m the new leader of the gang now, I demand you to tell me!”
Elder triad member: “Okay then, I’ll tell you… the triad has ran out of money.”

And there goes a minute or two.

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The film also doesn’t try to explore the culture of Petaling Street, nor does it even explain what exactly the point of being a gangster in Petaling Street is. Unless it’s cut due to censorship, it really doesn’t seem to make any sense to have followers, or wanting to join a triad, or even having elections when they’re already doing legal businesses. The romance and family drama elements of the story are as kiddish and formulaic as typical Chinese teenage idol dramas. The action sequences, too, are far from impressive. It’s quite strange to call this an “action” comedy just because there are scenes with a bit of running around, slapstick fighting and incompetent gun-firing.

Not sure if it’s deliberate, but parts of the story seems like a very mild and indirect portrayal of some of the recently escalated issues in Malaysia. Assassins can go around the streets carrying guns, the police are non-existent (like in Kepong Gangster), “gangsters” giving away “freebies” to voters before triad election, etc. The ending seems as though [SPOILER ALERT!] they’re poking fun of the government’s post-election comments, while also seem to be defending the Election Committee on the blackout issue.[SPOILER ENDS] But even if these satires were intentional, it doesn’t look like there was any real purpose behind them. I might be harsh, but it really does seem like a cheap attempt to amuse the audience without addressing the issues with proper answers or moral value.

Cheryl Lee as Cat Eyes in Bullets Over Petaling Street still meme

I’m not familiar with the actors but I was impressed by their lively and colourful performance. It may be a little slapstick for my taste, but at least they’re fully committed to it and they’re never once awkward in the movie, and we know that can be a problem in local productions from time to time. I had actually met the lead actress Debbie Goh once before several years ago at her restaurant but this was actually my first time seeing her on screen. Without the gorgeous 1999 Miss Malaysia Chinese International serving as the eye candy, I probably would have had a harder time sitting through the entire film.

What I would’ve named the film: “Tale of Idiotic Gangsters and Lack of Police”

Censorship in Malaysia: During the press conference, the directors did admit that some scenes have been removed but apparently it doesn’t affect the story. Some of these scenes are notable during the closing credits where the NG’s are shown.

Second opinion: My girlfriend thought that the entire movie seemed very “forced”.

Verdict: Commendable acting… but that’s about it. So cliched and nonsensically unfunny that it’s difficult to enjoy even if still in festive mood.

Rating: 1 / 5

Bullets Over Petaling Street movie poster malaysiaChinese title: 茨厂街女王 (Ci Chang Jie Nue Wang)
Country / Language: Malaysia / Mandarin, Cantonese

Rated: P13
Genre: Action, comedy, crime
Running Time: 87 minutes
Directors: Sampson Yuen & Ho Shih Phin
Writers: (no info)
Cast: Debbie Goh, Chen Han Wei, Irene Ang, Jeffrey Cheng, KK Wong, Steve Yap, Cheryl Lee

Malaysia Release Date: February 13th 2014
Local Distributor: GSC Movies
Studio(s): (no info)

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  1. ShameenDeMing

    Totally second ur opinion. Whole movie is a joke. Only one lady sitting on my far left was laughing her ass off in 1 or 2 scenes. We could be in the same hall bro lol. Anyway, good write-up, looking forward to your other reviews. Cheers.

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