Bullet Wives (2005)

Directed by
should have been so much better
Reviewed by Simon on 2012-05-24

The film opens with a narration explaining that by 2007 Thailand will have 2 women for every man, and by 2017 it could be 4:1. It doesn't explain *why* this is the case... since gender isn't a hereditary attribute (except in the sense you either get your mother's or your father's, I suppose!). However, if we accept the claim, then it is clear that the laws of economics dictate one thing: men will take mistresses! In fact, taking a mistress is already considered quite normal in Thailand and several other Asian cultures (perhaps because Buddhism never proclaimed on the subject of adultery), which is why a film like BULLET WIVES is only likely to come from Asia.

The (high) concept in a nutshell: Many men have mistresses, and when the "First Wife" dies the mistress is "promoted" to full wife status. The mistresses form a society to encourage this promotion, so the wives form a society to help protect each other. At the start of the film, the mistresses murder two prominent members of the First Wives Society to try and provoke them into a war where the mistresses can take over. The logic seems flawed since a mistress that becomes a wife, she would automatically become the enemy of her own society, but this is conveniently ignored for the purposes of the film :P

I have to say that it's one of the best concepts for a film I've ever heard, because it's really just a good excuse to have lots of gorgeous women engaging in stylised action scenes that pay homage to John Woo, The Matrix, Kill Bill and especially indie sci-fi yawner Equilibrium. And if you get caught drooling, you always have the excuse that you were just fascinated by the feminist themes the film raises :P

Unfortunately, as wonderful as BULLET WIVES is in concept, equally dire is it in execution. It's visually very slick, with great cinematography and production design, but it is woefully amateurish in other respects - the acting is awful, the editing is worse and the sound recording is especially poor! It's not often you can point to the sound recordist as the person that really let the film down, but BULLET WIVES is a great counter-example that shows what a good job the vast majority of sound recordists actually do. In fact, nobody on the production team seems to have thought through the issues involved in making a sync-sound film: namely that the microphone will pick up background noise, and multiple microphones in a scene will pick up *different* background noises! When you have dialogue between somebody inside and somebody in a doorway, and the sound of the ocean cuts in and out depending on who is speaking, you have to wonder how the film got all the way to a DVD release without somebody suggesting they just redub the dialogue in the studio.

It's also one of the only films I can think of that has "uncomfortable silences" in it - pauses in the dialogue that are so unnatural we begin squirming a little. I don't know if one should blame the actors, director or editor for the problem - but somebody along the line should have realised there was a problem and taken measures to correct it. Since most of the cast are models with little to no acting experience, it seems unfair to blame them, so I guess the buck stops with the director (who also co-edited!). I assume he comes from a music video or advertising background, since he has a great grasp of making attractive women look cool and not much else - so maybe it's unfair to blame him too!

Since much of the film's short running time (about 75 minutes) is taken up with the girls posing or engaging in stylised shoot-outs, the flaws with the acting, editing and sound can at least partially be overlooked. It's clear that the "Gun Kata" scenes from Equilibrium were a big influence on the action, with several sequences being almost directly lifted from it, but the stylisation is pushed even further, to almost abstract levels. "Stylised" seems like too weak a word to describe the action in fact, which is choreographed and filmed more like a dance than even John Woo's lauded scenes of gunplay. The finale actually intercuts a ballroom tango with the shootout to make it clear that this is intentional. Whether it's effective or not is likely to be a matter of taste... if you're basically watching the film because you love to see beautiful women posing with weapons, you will likely be satisfied :) If you're looking for anything resembling realism or danger, you certainly will not!

Basically the film should be treated as an exercise in style, with an extremely facile comment to make on mistress culture in Thailand... expressed eloquently on more than occasion as "Mistresses suck!". The wife and mistress societies are called "First Class Wives International" and "Economy Class Wives International", respectively, to make sure we understand what side the film stands on. However, the position is undermined a little by the fact the mistresses' society does have the better looking members overall :P (whoops, you didn't hear me say that). The "lead" mistress is the stunning model Methinee Kingpayome, and as a male reviewer it's hard to watch the film and not feel that mistresses have something going for them :P

Which is essentially how I feel about BULLET WIVES... it's a film with such gaping technical flaws nobody could sincerely call it "good", but it does certainly offer some guilty pleasures (for the eyes if not the brain), and is short enough to be tolerated whilst they are consumed :) With a more competent team behind the camera though, it could and should have been so much better!