"Eastern Bandits" (known as "An Inaccurate Memoir" overseas) is almost like a western set in a time period where the Japanese have taken over China. Told from the point of view of a soldier named Gao (Yi Zhang), the film showcases a group of bandits including Charlatan (Tino Bao), Cook Zhao, Kuei (Wang Lie), Lady Dagger (Ni Jingyang), Lassie (Zhang Yue), San Pao (Sun Lei), and Jen (Zhang Xinyi) who break their boss Fang (Huang Xiaoming) out of prison in order to keep up with their thieving ways. Fang's gang and Gao eventually cross paths and the soldier is kidnapped. Gao must choose between his freedom and becoming a part of something legendary.
Directed by Yang Shupeng, "Eastern Bandits" is a drama that has a lot of trouble finding its footing. The opening sequence is almost like a dance as one extended shot showcases Fang's entire gang in action all while the camera weaves around people, walls, and other such obstructions. The lighting in the film, particularly during the giant Buddha sequence, is quite spectacular. It just feels so natural that you can't help but enjoy it.
After over half an hour into the film you still have no earthly idea what is going on story-wise. There's kidnapping, a jailbreak, and a lot of heavy action, but nothing concrete other than a group of shady individuals stealing stuff with no real motive. The film eventually claims that they steal from the rich and give to the poor; however you never see these characters do this. They live underground in this kind of well decorated crap hole where they take turns stroking each others egos.
The imagery in "Eastern Bandits" is gorgeous. High definition does the film justice as its destructive mayhem highlights the film's heavy use of brilliant colors and extreme detail. The bank robbery scene is filmed quite well and the sequence where Fang confronts Jaguar (Ma Zhiming) is interesting, but none of it really fits together in the overall scheme of things.
"Eastern Bandits" is a film that wanders aimlessly with at least half a dozen moments that pique your interest, but seem to not make much sense when it comes to moving the plot forward in the film. Nailing down the genre isn't easy either. Is it a comedy? An action film? A drama? Adventure? Thriller? The film is worth seeing for the one-take underground base recovery sequence that is absolutely fantastic.
You hope for something along the lines of “The Good, the Bad, the Weird” or even “The Thieves,” but Yang Shupeng’s film is just beautiful anarchy without any sort of order. Between characters buying the freedom of hookers, a really lame twist that is foreseeable from the start, and Kuei's repetitive use of his, "I'll punch your face," line, "Eastern Bandits" leaves you scratching your head and wondering just what in the hell it hoped to accomplish.