Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (Hong Kong, 2014)

once-upon-a-time-in-shanghai-2014-01Directed by: Wong Ching-po. It was probably seeing The Bodyguard a while back that prompted me to check out more Sammo Hung, and I blindly reached for whatever the library had on hand at the time. It turns out this one is pretty light on Sammo—although he gets a few good fights in there—but is definitely full of other great fight scenes, mostly the ones between co-leads Philip Ng and Andy On. There is always a hurdle for people like me who grew up with one flashy narrative tradition—Hollywood—trying to follow an epic story told in a different flashy narrative tradition—in this case, Hong Kong action film. There are certain moments and moods and tonal choices that are largely absent from Hollywood, or at least treated differently. Off the top of my head, the use of slow motion to capture moments of high emotion, either sadness or a big action moment in a fight sequence. These things don’t really matter in the big picture of course, and really this film is full of stuff that’s recognizable: a small villager comes to the big city, falls into a bad crowd, wants to prove himself, rival gangsters, shady Japanese agents in fedoras and trench coats. If anything, this movie is more complex and multifaceted than the usual Hollywood treatment, which would probably just have the small town boy and a big bad guy and be done with it. The action sequences are something I can’t really comment too much on, because I’m still pretty new to the genre, and I’m still really captivated by the spectacle of it, at the level of an unreflecting audience member. Basically, I’m a little kid going “Ooo! That’s cool!” for about 75% of the movie. But as far as that goes, this movie is great fun, and it definitely stoked my appetite for this kind of thing even more. But first thing’s first, I gotta see more Sammo!

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5 responses to “Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (Hong Kong, 2014)

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