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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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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
I expected a lot with an international heavy weight cast like this one. All the way to the smallest characters are filled with great actors.
The cinematography is excellent and successfully recreates the feel of 40's Shanghai, along with the a secretive atmosphere that enhances the film noir mood. The story moves at a good pace where there isn't a scene too many and you have to keep your mind working to uncover the mysteries Paul Soames is trying to solve.
The excellent cast doesn't disappoint, John Cusack is solid and believable as an agent posing as a journalist. It's not hard to understand he would fall for the insanely beautiful Gong Li who seems to have found a fountain of youth somewhere. She plays the role of Anna Lan-Ting with a seductive and secretive flavor which is a joy to watch. Her husband, mob boss Anthony Lan-Ting, is being played by Hong Kong icon Chow Yun Fat who exudes charm and power but still manages to walk the fine line of a character you feel attracted to but also know you should actually stay away from. His performance adds the right amount of flair the production needs. Ken Watanabe plays out his sinister vibe along with a human grace perfectly and Jeffrey dean Morgan is believable as the friend who ended up dead.
Instead of a movie about politics and war, it's more about human relations and the different side to people. How people are used and mislead at times like this, and matters of the heart play an important role in the decisions the characters make.
If you are open to a movie that makes you think and wonder, you will definitely love 'Shanghai'.
The only thing that I did not get into was the romance-angle between John Cusack and Gong Li.... but maybe that's how it's meant to be. It's easy to see why he would fall for her but she, on the other hand, might have a whole different agenda.
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