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Action superstar Chow Yun-Fat portrays real-life gangster Chen Daqi as he rises to the upper echelons of power, finding himself torn between the love of two women, the murderous plots of the secret service, and the looming threat of war.
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Carina M. Johansson,
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An American man returns to a corrupt, Japanese-occupied Shanghai four months before Pearl Harbor and discovers his friend has been killed. While he unravels the mysteries of the death, he falls in love and discovers a much larger secret. Written by
The project was set to roll early 2008 in China but the authorities blocked the shoot just weeks before production was set to begin. China's exit meant walking away from sets that had been built at a cost of $3 million. Weinstein Co. shifted the shoot to London and Thailand, where sets have been built re-creating Shanghai's old colonial architecture. See more »
Pleasant surprise, no big low spots but no big high spots either
This is a reasonably solid neo-noir spy/detective story told in Shanghai of 1941. I give it credit for having avoided the various shoals of parody, exaggeration, satire, overdone explosions, and overly-wordy dialogue that afflict quite a few movies these days. This was a serious attempt to tell a story in a more or less natural and realistic way while focusing on elements that are noir in nature. The characterizations rang reasonably true all the way through and so did the situations. The path it took was not predictable.
Having avoided the low spots and charted a good course, the movie was unable to generate memorable high spot scenes and dialogue. It just sort of went along. In older movies, there are often scenes that one can play and replay endlessly because the writing is that good in bringing out the characters and conflicts plus the magnificent acting and direction of old bring out far more than what is on paper. This is what is lacking in most newer movies, at least so far in the journey I am taking in viewing and assessing them.
This movie lacked a high degree of emotional involvement as well.
The recreation of the period is done very well. The acting was faultless even if it didn't achieve a high degree of involvement or communication of human depths. In that regard, the Japanese official Tanaka, the antagonist, may have had the best lines and the best sense of character arc.
Recommended. Certainly noir fans will find merit in Shanghai. The story is about a spy's efforts to find out who killed his friend, agent Connor, and why. Like all noir detectives, he does so persistently and intelligently. He is especially good at answering questions by using truthful and yet non-revealing responses. That was a strong point of the script.
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