A Hong Kong ode to pre-war Shanghai. The legendary city of pulsating nightclubs, Japanese spies and dandy gangsters, summed up in stylish black-and-white Kung Fu films. A poor boy from the country fights his way to the top in a film that can compete with the best of them.
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It might be time to label Wong Ching-po an unheralded auteur: here he affords his boilerplate martial arts film a desaturated, almost black & white color palette, lending proceedings an expressionistic and even film noir-esque aesthetic. It's enough to enliven what is yet another in the by now ubiquitous 'Chinese hero vs. Japanese army' story, though Yuen Woo-ping's choreography goes a long way in that regard too.
Poor reimagining of 'Boxer From Shangtung' that is almost saved by its fight choreography (by Yuen Woo Ping) and the arrival of Philip Ng in his first starring role. The desaturation of images likely meant to bring high art to the look of the film instead exposes its weaknesses and derivative nature. 'The Grandmaster' it isn't. A passable martial arts film and nothing more with a couple of memorable scenes.
Once Upon a Time in Shanghai Review
Directed by: Wong Ching-Po
Stars: Philip Ng, Andy On, Sammo Hung, Michelle Hu and Wen Chao
Philip Ng and Andy On bring the action with Yuen Woo Ping orchestrating it, but will this be a story that you'll remember or just another once upon a time this could have been something special kinda deal?
Check out full review here http://www.easternfilmfans.co.uk/?p=3496