‘Shanghai’

Let’s Re-Live The Nightmare

Shanghai on the eve of World War II has been done in quite a number of films. It’s the big setting in ‘Empire of the Sun‘; the opening sequence in ‘Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom’; as well as a more serious and sombre ‘Shanghai Triad‘. As between-the-wars romanticism goes, there’s something very dark and depressing about the whole setup. Gong Li has of course been in both films. Unlike Paris or Berlin between the wars, Shanghai between the wars was decidedly the product of European colonialism, and so the Chinese people get to play parts where they are the oppressed. One imagines it must be a masochistic joy because most instances show how evil the Japanese are in their concession.

I’m not disputing they weren’t – It just seems odd that they don’t want to talk about what else happened in the other concessions, and why there were concessions. In any case, I might be the worst person to be watching this film.

What’s Good About It

Chow Yun-Fat’s long past it, but he’s in it; and I’m a fan. John Cusack looks really past it in this film but he’s in it. Ken Watanabe’s in it and he’s always interesting. Gong Li is long past it too, but she’s in it. The cinematography is moody and noir.The production design is quite good.

Ken Watanabe plays a guy called Captain Tanaka. Pay that.

What’s Bad About It

Nothing that happens in the film is of any real consequence. About halfway into the film, you think John Cusack’s character is potentially uncovering the planned attack on Pearl Harbour, but he’s not. He’s tracking down the opium addicted wife of a Japanese officer. It’s a pretty pissy little pay off for all the elaborate running around of all that shooting, punching, and stabbing.

The film is a bit of a chore to sit through for such small stakes. It doesn’t offer enough fun to be a movie-movie and it doesn’t offer enough to chew upon for it to be an interesting film.

The action is boring, the special effects are dodgy, the dialogue is a bit arch, the characters are a little dull, and all too much like stock characters bumbling around. Nothing fresh, nothing new, nothing interesting.

Plus I’m sick of seeing idiotic Japanese soliders. The soldiers weren’t the dumb ones. It was the staff officers attached to line officers who were the particularly dumb ones.

What’s Interesting About It

How can they make such a bad movie out of all these good ingredients going in?

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