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SHANGHAI 13 is something of a minor classic of the kung fu genre. It's highly entertaining because it retains the cast and director of many of the Shaw Brothers classics, relocating them to Taiwan for a cheap and cheerful effort that brings to mind the storyline of a more modern action flick, BODYGUARDS AND ASSASSINS.
The late, great director Chang Cheh ensues his film is chock-full of bloody action and indeed after a 20-minute opening set-up this is action all the way with one ferocious fight scene after another. The storyline is set in the 1930s and involves government collaboration with the evil Japanese; some patriots steal some important documents and must transport them to Hong Kong, but assassins are out in force. The rest of the storyline is essentially a running battle between good and bad.
Half of the fun comes from guessing which of the guest stars will be the good guys and which will be the villains. An extended set piece in a casino, where everybody is under suspicion, is a highlight. It's hard to pick a standout performer when there are so many good ones, but David Chiang is a reliable face and Ti Lung kicks memorable ass at the climax. Yes, all the budget might have been spent on hiring the actors leaving this looking cheap indeed, but that doesn't mean it's a bad film. On the contrary, I loved it.
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