From glamour to ghetto, follow one woman’s (mis)adventures from movie star to gangster boss.
CHEST out and hips swayed to the side!” newly-minted triad boss Yu Ping An (Debbie Goh) instructs her followers, in a bid to get their spirits up after learning that they have to meet a fearsome gang leader. And just like that, Boss An (as they call her) and her men sashay their way across Petaling Street, momentarily turning the bustling street into a fashion runway.
It’s pretty entertaining – for the first half at least. It’s funny to watch the dainty Boss An navigate the world of triads like a fish out of water.
It all starts as an innocent request. Ping An is a popular movie star who wants to better understand her role as a seductive triad member for a movie project. She talks her boyfriend, Petaling Street’s top triad leader Melvin (Steve Yap), into letting her attend one of his gang meetings.
But in a dramatic turn of events, Melvin vanishes after a scuffle on the way to the meeting, leaving the clueless actress to pick up the mantle and run his triad. She discovers that the organisation is running low on funds, and to make things worse, the other triads of Petaling Street are on their case.
Boss An doesn’t take her job seriously at first – even fixing her make-up while talking to another gang leader – and gets by using her real profession to her advantage, wriggling her way out of tough situations with her acting chops.
In one scene, after having a gun pointed at her by flamboyant, eyeliner-wearing gang boss Sa Pao (William San), she retaliates in a most unconventional way which shows times really are a-changing, even for the triads. There are many silly and slapstick jokes like this to laugh about and if you’re alert, you might catch a bit of political satire in there, too.
But Bullets takes on a more serious tone in its second half where, in order to survive the (literally) cutthroat world of triads, she realises she should not only act the part of a gang boss – she has to actually become one. The election of a new top triad leader is coming up and the other triads are all against her.
The movie delves a bit deeper into An’s character here as her responsibilities threaten to overwhelm her and her old flame Da Xiang (Chen Han Wei) is caught in the middle, leaving her at her wits’ end.
Leading lady Goh does a great job playing both a bimbo-ish, entitled celebrity at the film’s start and a strong, mature, take-charge woman by the end of her journey. It would be easy to overact as either aspect of the character, but Goh strikes the right balance and makes her role believable.
Kudos to the film’s costume designer, too, as seeing Goh decked out in countless glamorous gowns, jackets, hats and sunglasses is something to look forward to in each new scene. Goh apparently went through 30 different outfits in the movie without ever wearing the same one twice (can you imagine how difficult it was for the costume designer, especially for retakes?).
Bullets Over Petaling Street is a fun, entertaining action-comedy, but there is still room for improvement. Some better special effects certainly wouldn’t hurt.