As far as I can tell, the film is supposed to take place during the final days of the Ching Dynasty in China. The sheriff of a tiny rural village has been beheaded by gangster so the decision is made to have all of the local prisoners pull straws, with the two winners getting to leave the prison and become the town’s new law enforcement officers. The winners are the hulking but well-meaning Bolo (Bolo Yeung, for once playing a good guy) and Ma (Jason Piao Pai). Ma is a con artist while Bolo is in prison for killing his wife because he hadn’t seen her before their arranged marriage and was horrified to discover how ugly she was. (Ha ha, I guess?) Bolo and Ma are told not to try to escape and are then sent on their way to the village.
After a visit to the local brothel ends in a fight, Bolo gets down to trying to clean up the village. That’s not going to be easy because almost everyone in the village is a gangster and the village’s mayor would rather appoint the local pimp as the new sheriff. Bolo, however, starts to get results so the mayor plots to poison Bolo. That doesn’t work but he does frame Bolo for a crime that he didn’t commit which leads to Bolo and Ma committing a real crime. Bolo also falls in love with a 7 foot woman.
Bolo is like a Kung Fu version of the type comedic spaghetti westerns that Bud Spencer and Terrence Hill used to make in the 70s, with the exception that it’s far more incoherent than anything that ever starred Spencer and Hill. Friends become enemies and enemies become friends and back again with shocking regularity in Bolo and, though there’s many fights, it’s rarely clear why anyone’s fighting. A typical scene features a woman asking Bolo to watch her baby and then stabbing him in the stomach when he makes a face about the baby’s dirty diaper. A wounded Bolo staggers into a doctor’s office, where the doctor bandages him up and then the two of them have a fight, during which time the bandage falls off and we discover that Bolo is apparently no longer wounded.
The film is also a comedy but it’s difficult for me to judge how effective it might have been because 1) I saw a poorly dubbed version and 2) much of the humor appeared to be very specific to China and Chinese culture. For instance, there’s a lengthy scene where Ma and a woman play something called “the numbers game.” The film presents it as being a big deal and I think it was meant to be comedic but I have to admit that I have no idea what they were doing. To me, it seemed like they were just shouting out random numbers while holding up their hands. To everyone else in the movie, it appeared to mean something else. So, I won’t judge the film’s comedy beyond saying that Belo Yeung, who also directed as well as starred, appeared to have a gift for physical comedy that he didn’t get a chance to show off in his other films, mostly because he was usually cast as a villain. There’s also a scene where a grocer attacks someone with a cucumber and that’s funny just because cucumber’s are funny.
Even if it’s never clear why anyone’s fighting and the sound effects often don’t match the actions of the combatants, some of the fight scenes are exciting. That’s really the main reason why anyone’s going to watch something like Bolo and in that case, the movie doesn’t disappoint. The fights are cool. It’s just too bad that the plot keeps getting in the way.