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When ambitious New York attorney Sam is sent to Shanghai on assignment, he immediately stumbles into a legal mess that could end his career. With the help of a beautiful relocation specialist, a well-connected old-timer, a clever journalist, and a street-smart legal assistant, Sam might just save his job, find romance, and learn to appreciate the beauty and wonders of Shanghai. Written by
Full of wit and a distant cousin to Marc Webb's (500) Days of Summer, Daniel Hsia's feature debut Shanghai Calling is a hilarious and steady picture featuring an outstanding breakout performance by Daniel Henney. A romantic comedy that often falls victim to American stereotypes that we've grown to see over the years of cinema however, it's delightful to see those things outside of a New York backdrop or mundane college town. Telling the story of a New York attorney Sam (Henney) who is sent to Shanghai, China on business, but when a shady deal threatens his career, Sam, with the help of his relocation specialist Amanda (Eliza Coupe) and others, he grows an admiration of his new surroundings.
Hsia's stylistic tendencies are impressive and while he resembles certain directorial choices from the likes of Chris Weitz, Marc Webb, even Sofia Coppola among others, he doesn't allow himself or his film to be taken too serious. Its loads of fun, well-written, and shows a potential promising career that could eventually elevate to smarter, more daring cinematic themes; Hsia's film is a great introduction into his future arsenal. There aren't the pros without the cons sadly. His pacing and editing are well put together, but Hsia's story treads too close to sappy rom-coms that will annoy the boyfriends of many ladies around the world.
As the charismatic and incredibly funny Sam, Daniel Henney, probably well-known for his role as Agent Zero in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009), delivers the first great comedic performance of 2013. Involved and dedicated, Henney takes an A-typical "schmuck guy" role and elevates it to raw magnetism that stands as the actor's finest. The film succeeds purely on his talents as he wiggles his way right into your heart. Dare I say this early, Golden Globe consideration? Though highly improbable. The score by Klaus Badelt & Christopher Carmichael is also pretty sensational as it brings a wonderful accompaniment to some key scenes.
As the cute, spunky love interest, Eliza Coupe (ABC's "Happy Endings") does the best with the tools she's given. A single mom running from American life in a predictable and underwritten role isn't the most inventive or effective manners to showcase your talents. Coupe is still worth watching. The great Bill Paxton is as underutilized as ever, bringing an unappealing perversion to an American mayor that further builds the projection that all Americans suck. Keep your eyes on Sean Gallagher, who's forced, yet effective role as Brad, is an added joy full of laughs.
Easy to foresee and even too cliché for its own good at times, Shanghai Calling is pure enjoyment and something that may surprise even more skillful cinematic minds.
The film is now playing in select cities.
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