If only the wonderfully light, magical and fast
moving touch that was brought to the fabulous kung fu dance sequence with
Anita Mui and Yuen Biao had been utilized during the rest of the film,
this would be a certifiable classic. That scene is sensational and sublime
and certain to bring a smile to one’s face – and much of the reputation
of this film rests upon it. Other than this, there are also some action
sequences (choreographed by Yuen Tak and Dion Lam) that are great fun but
the rest of the film is often stuck in earnest slow moving mud. The
narrative simply has no flow or rhythm to it and the viewer never connects
emotionally with the story. It's a shame because one senses that with a
little tweaking and a crisper script this could have been a complete joy
It is certainly worth catching this film though
for the dazzling and entertaining performances from Anita and Yuen. They
are simply splendid. Yuen as one expects displays his smooth and very impressive
acrobatic moves along with his usual boyish charm - and Anita is just as
impressive with her fancy footwork whether be it dancing or fighting. Looking
extremely glamorous in her chic outfits and pouty lipsticked lips, she
pretty much steals the film whenever she is in it. She has a beautifully
intricate and leg-showing fight near the end of the film against multiple
opponents that simply makes you marvel at her overall talent. This movie
could make you an Anita Mui fan for life.
The director (Teddy Robins) gives the film a stunning
classy visual sheen with richly textured colors and ornate stylish sets.
As he should - because this is Shanghai - the glitter glamour capital of
China in the early 1930's - with movie stars, night clubs and gangsters
a large part of the social scene. Clouds are on the horizon though - the
Communists and the Nationalists are fighting for power while the Japanese
are threatening invasion. It's a wide-open town and nearly everyone is
looking for a quick buck.
Yuen Biao comes in from the countryside to visit
his brother (George Lam) who is one of the few honest cops remaining in
Shanghai. Yuen accidentally gets involved in a well-staged night club shoot
out between two rival gangs (one headed by Lo Lieh and the other by Kirk
Wong) and in the process he becomes good friends with an acrobatic troupe
(with Meng Hoi and Sandy Lam among them). At the same time, George is trying
to clean up the town and also deal with two competing love interests -
Anita Mui and Tien Niu. This section of the plot adds little to the film
and in general whenever George appears the film tails off into molasses.
Anita is actually a secret revolutionary and she
is looking for $500,000 that was stolen from them. She suspects that her
Godfather, Sammo Hung, has it. Sammo delivers a solid performance
- smiling and looking like the most jovial and kindly person in the world
to the public - but he is in fact a totally ruthless triad head. He has
one great scene when his true face appears as he callously and cold bloodily
kills another man.
The film has three large well choreographed action
scenes plus of course the dance routine, but I think my favorite cathartic
moment in the film involves Sandy Lam and Yuen. She is being held captive
in a gangster’s arms with a gun pointed to her head. Yuen flings a knife
right at her face - which she catches in her mouth - and in one motion
whips her head around cutting the man's throat. One of those great HK moments!
Yuen looks very good here - relaxed, charming
and in control - and has some excellent action scenes – one of them a good
one on one fight with Sammo - and has another scene in which he looks almost
like a debonair Frank Sinatra - with jacket thrown over his shoulder and
in the spotlight. I was expecting him to break into "In the Wee Small
Hours of the Morning".
Again this film should have been better – all
the pieces were in place – great actors, terrific sets, a solid plot, excellent
choreography – but it never quite clicks. Even so, the charisma of the
actors and a few near perfect scenes make this a film well worth viewing.
My rating for this film: 6.5
Distributed by Universe
The transfer is terrific - the colors
are rich, the detail is sharp.
Cantonese and Mandarin language tracks
Subtitles: Chinese , English, Bahasa
It includes it's own trailer plus Fortune Code,
Lucky Stars Go Places, Wheres Officer Tuba.
The sub-titles are easy to read.
Star Files - George Lam, Anita Mui, Teddy Robins
and Sammo Hung.