Critic Consensus: Shanghai is crippled by a weak story and fatally undermined by clunky direction, making for a period political drama that lacks all of its key components.
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as Paul Soames
as Anthony Lan-Ting
as Anna Lan-Ting
as Richard Astor
as Ben Sanger
as German Consul
as Leni Müller
as Juso Kita
as Karl Müller
as Shin Shin
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Critic Reviews for Shanghai
You might be forgiven for expecting either an unfairly squelched masterpiece or an unholy mess. The movie is neither, although it falls closer to the mess side of the table.
Under Mikael Håfström's visually clunky, rhythmless direction, it's a snooze of epic sameness: choppy action scenes, a blankly stern Cusack, and too many allegiance shifts to count or care for.
Director Mikael Hafstrom and a fine cast and crew have made a film that's elegant and gauche in roughly equal measure.
Håfström directs it like he's sucking too hard on a cigarette, in a quick, over-and-done-with style that results only in fitful coughs of smoke.
Audience Reviews for Shanghai
Set in the backdrop of World War II, this spy thriller is passable. It falters mainly towards the climax. You aren't taken aback when you find out who's the criminal. Besides it doesn't make sense why X prefers to help Y who's just attempted to hurt him badly instead of Z who wishes to redeem for his mistake by doing X a favor (which is clearly evident in the penultimate sequence). Cusack is a good actor and gives his best, but some actors simply don't fit every bill. The rest of the casting was appropriate, though.
What a cast!! Ken Watanabe, Chow Yun Fat, John Cusack and Li Gong in this almost epic 40's noir type mystery cross war flick set just before the Pearl Harbour bombings. The film looks beautiful with lavish sets touched up with cgi cityscape's dotted throughout, a nice mix of models and cgi which is easy on the eye, a good balance. The costumes, cars, buildings and sets in general are all perfect and lovingly put together which is clear to see, allot of effort in this film for the grand look.
Of course the cast compliments this nicely with great performances all round, despite Cusack maybe being slightly out of place, but even minor or brief roles are well played by known character actor faces from both the West and East.
The film is a big vision, a vision of one of China's oldest and largest cities but its a slow burner for sure so don't get excited expecting lots of action, there are sequences of gun fighting and 'mob' type hits but for the most part this is mainly dialog in good looking locations. I'll be honest, this film did get a touch boring throughout with many characters, changing relationships, alliances, crosses and much spy/espionage chat (you need to pay attention) but little spy/espionage thrills, what there is was short and sharp and benefits from excellent camera work.
There are moments of quality acting and sombre visions of war which does really make this film special, the noirish private eye side gives it a fresh look and unique feel as you sometimes forget its a war film with the smoke filled gambling dens and neon lights that twinkle in the Shanghai streets. Its all gorgeous to watch but not quite as interesting story wise, swaying alittle towards abit muddled or confusing at times, I need to see it again really.
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 movie noir mood. 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.
|Paul Soames:||I just need to find out who killed my friend.|
|Paul Soames:||My friend was an American agent. What was he working on?|
|Paul Soames:||You know, this whole country has its head buried in the sand.|
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