新上海灘 (1996)
Shanghai Grand


Reviewed by: mrblue
Date: 02/18/2008

A big screen adaptation of the popular 1980's Hong Kong TV series Shanghai Bund (aka Shanghai Beach) that launched Chow Yun-Fat to fame, Shanghai Grand certainly has its' share of detractors. But this particular reviewer found it to be a fairly powerful movie dramatically, spiced up with a little more than a dash of bloody action.

The story's protagonist is Ding (Andy Lau), a poor man who makes what little he can by cleaning toliets. Nevertheless, the powerful local gang leader's beautiful daughter, Fung (Ning Jing), takes a shine to Ding. After Ding rescues Fung from an attempted kidnapping, her father gives his blessing to their relationship -- if Ding can help him consolidate power by killing off some of the other "big brothers". Along with his good friend Keung (Leslie Cheung), Ding begins to rise to the top of Shanghai's underworld, but soon the cost to him personally becomes apparent.

The above plot summary is very streamlined. Shanghai Grand is a very dense movie, and that is its' main problem. There's just too many characters and relationships to keep track of, and things become muddled as a result. Obviously, the film-makers were trying to incorporate as much of the original series into here as they could, but perhaps some more judicious editing would have been in order. There are times when the film-makers seem to realize this, and try to speed things up via a musical montage, but that kind of device just comes off as a cheap fix.

Nevertheless, Shanghai Grand is still a compelling movie, thanks to the performances of the leads, especially Andy Lau. It was at this point in his career that, with the departure of several high-profile stars like Chow Yun-Fat, Lau seemed to realized his importance in the Hong Kong film hierarchy and take his roles more seriously. There's a nice depth to Ding which most of his early work was missing, and that goes a long way into making the proceedings more relevant for the viewer.

Combined with top-notch set design, cinematography, and editing, Shanghai Grand is one of those big-budget Hong Kong films that actually looks and feels the part. When you throw in a few very solid action sequences (helmed by Stephen Tung), you have the makings of a good night's entertainment. Thankfully, Shanghai Grand doesn't disappoint. This is an entry that's well worth your time, especially if you're a fan of Andy Lau and/or Leslie Cheung.

[review from www.hkfilm.net]

Reviewer Score: 7

Reviewed by: Libretio
Date: 01/05/2005
Summary: Hugely underrated wartime thriller, toplining superstars Lau and Cheung

SHANGHAI GRAND (1996)

Aspect ratio: 1.85:1
Sound format: Dolby Stereo

In wartime Shanghai, a Taiwanese revolutionary (Leslie Cheung Kwok-wing) and an ambitious gangster (Andy Lau Tak-wah) forge a criminal empire within the city's underworld, but they're torn apart by a rival gangster's beautiful daughter (Ning Jing).

[Caution: Possible spoilers] Director Poon Man-kit scores a bullseye with this uncompromising wartime thriller, a big-screen version of the 1980 TV drama "Shanghai Bund" (which, amongst other things, established Chow Yun-fat as a major star throughout SE Asia), co-financed by Win's Entertainment and Tsui Hark's Film Workshop. Nostalgic, romantic and primed to the max, the film's melodramatic plotline is reinforced by a number of eye-popping set-pieces, laced with unexpected savagery. Like many of his contemporaries, Poon - who helmed the equally brutal TO BE NUMBER ONE in 1991 - finds poetry in images of violence (such as Cheung standing in a shower of blood beneath a cage where his friends have been machine-gunned to death), and these highlights are directed with consummate cinematic precision.

Beautifully designed by Bruce Yu Ka-on, and photographed by world-class cinematographer Poon Hang-sang on sets constructed for Chen Kaige's TEMPTRESS MOON (1996), SHANGHAI GRAND has the look and feel of a flamboyant, pumped-up Warner Bros. melodrama of the 1930's and 40's, toplined by two of the most beautiful actors working in Hong Kong at the time (Lau and Cheung make a formidable team in one of their few on-screen pairings). Mainland actress Ning is miscast in an underwritten role, and she's completely sidelined by Amanda Lee Wai-man as a seductive - but ruthless - killer who enjoys torturing her victims to death. Her demise, when it comes, is as spectacular as it is welcome!

Poon's script (co-written by Sandy Shaw and Matt Chow Hoi-kwong) focuses chiefly on the friendship which unites - and eventually destroys - the two main characters, building to one of the most sensational finales this reviewer has ever seen: Poon stages the breathtaking climactic shoot-out during raucous New Year's Eve celebrations in the vicinity of a crowded bar-room, and he uses the Dolby soundtrack as ironic counterpoint to the on-screen drama. In fact, the movie reaches its emotional summit during this extraordinary sequence when one of the characters falls victim to a dreadful misunderstanding, culminating in a moment of sublime cinematic tragedy that elevates SHANGHAI GRAND to the level of greatness. It takes enormous talent (and courage) for any filmmaker to convey so much heartbreak and heroism whilst simultaneously igniting the screen with so much action! Fans of HK cinema won't be disappointed by this superlative offering.

Reviewer Score: 9

Reviewed by: Inner Strength
Date: 09/06/2002
Summary: Poor

Well, as all but one other person expressed their disappointment in this film, I have to agree with the majority on this one too. There are really so many flaws with it that I can’t even begin to start.

The biggest problem though is trying to turn a successful TV series into a full length film. This has been done many times before, and like the majority of those films too, this also shows that no matter how many hours make up successful TV series, it just doesn’t work when you try to put one single story on screen for an extended time of 90 minutes. Because of this, the film is a complete bore, with maybe a total combined time of about 15-20 minutes of good entertainment. The rest of it, other than action etc, is another example of a film that goes to ridiculous lengths to try to keep you in suspense, but it ends up putting people to sleep. A similar film I can compare this to in such ways is A Hero Never Dies, which was also a load of rubbish. The original TV series was not particularly very good either in my opinion, though others will definitely disagree with me. I’ve seen a lot of TV series from HK, and not many after the early 90’s seemed much good to me, but there were certainly some excellent ones before that (mainly those starring Andy Lau, Chow Yun Fat and Dodo Cheng).

Another problem with this film to people who haven’t seen any of the original shows, will probably be confused, as there is no real background given to the film, or any real character development. The acting in this one goes way out of the window too, disappointing I’m sure to fellow Andy Lau fans. Leslie Cheung is even worst, and his acting (unless his character really was supposed to be like this) was just so shallow. Some (and I only mean some) of action was quite good, and is the highlight of the film, but even that is limited, leaving very little other reasons to watch this.

The backgrounds and costumes were very well done, and very accurate to the period for which this was based. The overall look is very good, especially when considered next to another film similar to this, Mr Canton and Lady Rose (which was even worst to a certain extent).

Although this is only the second time I’ve seen this since it was released years ago, a second time is too many as it is and would never attempt to watch this one again! I would highly suggest anyone thinking of seeing it, should definitely think again. Although usually I wouldn’t necessarily agree that just because the majority of reviewers say a film is good or not that you should take note of the majority vote, but on this occasion I would. Give it a miss, I can’t see why anyone would like it!

[2/5]

Reviewer Score: 4

Reviewed by: MrBooth
Date: 12/20/2001
Summary: Poor attempt to convert a popular series into a movie

Leslie Cheung & Andy Lau play a Taiwanese soldier gone AWOL and a Triad small boss who rise up through the underworld of 1935 Shanghai. Opens with a really quite violent and bloody action scene aboard a ship, then steams ahead with plot points as if it's afraid the world might end any minute. The opening sections felt something like watching a nightmare, with some unusual cinematography, conspicuous bloodiness and plot development that seemed almost random. A little bit later I felt it was almost like watching a trailer, being presented with selected scenes to tempt me to see the whole, then eventually I realised it felt like watching a movie that's been adapted from a TV series by simply picking scenes the director liked. Which is exactly what it is - a speed-reading version of the series that made Chow Yun Fat a star in the 80's.

I thought maybe this nightmare approach was simply a condensed way of setting the scene before they settled on the story they wanted to focus on in the movie, but no... the whole thing plays out like that. We're propelled through a year or more's story like a bullet, with no sense of character development or narrative coherency. We get quite a few gruesome scenes, a lot of very nice cinematography and an incredibly sexy female lead (Ning Jing), but at no point does the movie ever engage interest in what's happening. Definitely a fluffed opportunity.


Reviewed by: pjshimmer
Date: 08/01/2001
Summary: highly enjoyable

While I thought Andy Lau did a great job as Ding Li, Leslie Cheung was a bit "shy" & uncomfortable as Xu Wen Qiang. I saw this title years ago, and it was great at the time b/c I hadn't seen any Chinese films for several years! Now that I think of it, it could have been better. The plot was flawed with giant holes. Too bad, because the TV series this title adapts from is without a doubt the best mini series ever made in global history. Everybody I know thinks highly of the series, as do I.

[7/10]


Reviewed by: Sydneyguy
Date: 05/08/2001
Summary: A waste!!

With 2 big stars i expected more and it didn't deliver!! I knew the ending would turn out the way it did too!!
This is originally a mini series and like all mini series adapted to a movie, it loses lots of it's plot's, character developments and so on!! Watch the mini series if you can, thats worth watching...........

4/10


Reviewed by: jfierro
Date: 12/21/1999

This movie tried to cover too much of the original TV serial, ending up looking like an extended trailer for a high-budget SHANGHAI BEACH, with Leslie Cheung and Andy Lau in place of Chow Yun-Fat and Ray Lui. I don't blame Leslie and Andy --- they did the best they could --- but there was never a chance to develop their characters or the plot. All that was left was some beautiful scenery and a series of slow-motion gun battles. Those who didn't see the original series will be confused, those who did won't see the point of the remake.


Reviewed by: hktopten
Date: 12/21/1999

Like many HK films of recent years, this film COULD HAVE BEEN SO MUCH BETTER. Instead we got a film feeling less than what it should be. Lead actress Ling Jing's look is almost completely wrong for the part, as her look isn't innocent or pretty enough for the role. Leslie has never been more masculine in a role almost short enough to be listed as a guest starring role, which may be for the better as 1. he is following Chow Yun Fat's footstep and 2. the film is going nowhere with his part being a political statement for Tsui Hark. I will admit the first chapter of the film which Andy's character Ting Lik narrates the story is quite enjoyable, but the rest just become dark, dreary and drab. It might have been a better film if the film was done with one smooth storytelling style instead of the dragging three narrative style. At least it would have been quicker and less painful to watch. I agree, though, that Leslie and ESPECIALLY Andy play their parts better than I expected them to.


Reviewed by: pablo
Date: 12/09/1999

Taiwan soldier/spy Hui Man Keung escapes capture at great cost,ending up in Shanghai. There he gains the trust of up-and-comer Ting Lik, and the two rise to prominense in the city underworld. This film is a blast from the past on many levels. Leslie is superb as the silently suffering, honorable Keung (I should note I've never seen the series starring Chow Yun Fat), and Andy returns to the young honorable gangster role he's played so many times before. Visually, the film is flawless - set and costume design is striking, and producer Tsui Hark's trademarks are all over each shot. But ultimately, after a great start, the story falls short - trying to cover too much territory resulting in a rushed ending. If you like style over substance, this is a great way to pass the time waiting for Wong Kar Wai's next film. If not, this film may still be worth a look.


Reviewed by: spinali
Date: 12/08/1999
Summary: NULL

Tin Lik (Andy Lau) has risen from shit-disposal duties to being one of the top Shanghai triads; Kenny Tung (Leslie Cheung) is a Taiwanese allied with a covert force of Japanese in China aimed at toppling one of the corrupt Chinese mafias; and Ling Fung Fung (Ling Jing) is Heung's longtime secret lover, a fact unknown to Lik, who has plans to marry her. (This seems to happen frequently in Andy Lau movies.) Lik's boss has other plans, and sends his loyal charge into the hands of a ruthless hitgirl (Amanda Lee) who chains him up in her subterranean torture chamber, the fireplace roaring, and sets a colossal boa constrictor six inches thick on him. Ultimately, it boils down to a rivalry of the two men for the girl's love, one which -- given HK film conventions -- mixes some solid action, romance, male bonding, and tragedy for all concerned. The standard plot unfolds in non-standard ways (with flashbacks from the major characters' POV), and we're left to admire the most impressive thing in the film: the awesome Shanghai backdrop. With its breathtaking period architecture, filmed on location, the bustling Shanghai streets look completely convincing as extras in period costumes bustle past one another; it's as intoxicating as newsreel footage of the era. "If only..." you say to yourself, watching this, and remembering how a great film like Godfather 2 was able to convert its period setting into an element of dramatic tension. Tsui Hark adapted this from a TV serial starring Chow Yun-Fat, and obviously is working here with a huge budget.

(2.5/4)



[Reviewed by Steve Spinali]

Reviewer Score: 6