Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Film Review: Once Upon A Time In Shanghai (2014)

Once Upon A Time In Shanghai (Review)
China/2014
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Universe Laser HK)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"The climax alone is worth the price of admission..."

Skillful martial artist Ma Yongzhen (Philip Ng) moves from his hometown to Shanghai in hopes of earning an honest living.

Once Upon A Time In Shanghai is a simple but effective martial arts tale. The story continues to follow Ma as he develops a brotherly relationship with up-and-coming overlord Lung Qi (Andy On), who is also a very skilled martial artist. Fortunately for Ma, who doesn't want to be a gangster, Lung is quite righteous and only hopes to defeat the other gang bosses, who happen to have Japanese connections. The film builds up well to an action-packed climax and great ending.

Once Upon A Time In Shanghai is a great action film. Hell, it's a fantastic martial arts action movie. The fights are vicious and filled with adrenaline, and there are fortunately many. The climax alone is worth the price of admission for hardcore action fans. The story and characters are simple, though, which can be both positive and negative. This is one of those films that could've been more effective with more depth. It's one of those movies where you wouldn't mind a longer runtime. Aside from the would've could've, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai is a film with very few flaws.

The acting is good, too. Philip Ng is great, he has some surprising charm and charisma. Aside from his laughing, Andy On is also very good. The style and cinematography make the film standout, and in a good way; there are some beautiful scenes in this film. The music was also fantastic, I loved the credits song, which is also a recurring track. The fight choreography is superb, and the editing keeps up with the action. Director Wong Ching-po captures the wonderful action perfectly and with such style.

I watched the Hong Kong Blu-ray for this review. The picture and audio quality are excellent as far as I can tell. The English subtitles have a few spelling and grammatical errors, and they often move by too quickly, but the simple story is easy enough for anyone to digest.

Overall, Once Upon A Time In Shanghai is a great film. It's a superb action film to kill a night thanks to its consistent and often breathtaking action, the simple story, the fast pacing, and the short runtime. Like I said, though, this is a film that would've benefited from a longer runtime and more character. Regardless, if you're a fan of martial arts films, this film is definitely worth seeking.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Violence and blood.

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