Maybe too many pictures were already made about that city and that period and they look too much one like the other. Or maybe after Ang Lee made one of them (Lust, Caution) there is not too much to say about this subject, even of that was not even Lee’s best. In any case Shanghai made by Swede director Mikael Hafstrom does not succeed to be more than routine and confusing, and looks much less authentic than other attempts which were part of the same stream.

 

source en.wikipedia.org

source en.wikipedia.org

 

 

The story is set in the few months before the entry of the US in the war against Japan, and actually the heroes (some of them American agents) seem to discover preparations about Pearl Harbor and the breaking of the war in the Pacific, but they do not seem to care very much, as they are busy with their personal intrigues and revenge, as well as romantic stories, none convincing, all confusing, and certainly lacking the burning eroticism in the film by Lee. Actually never had John Cusack looked to me so uninvolved emotionally as in this film! I personally have a lot of sympathy for this actor, but he really seemed by himself unconvinced about what his character is supposed to do, so he failed to convince us as well.

 

(video source ClipsFever)

 

Besides Cusack we have in this movie Li Gong, one of the greatest stars of the Chinese-speaking screens who makes all efforts to create something credible and worth remembering but eventually fails as well because of the lack of clarity of directing intentions. Ken Watanabe on the other hand is such huge an actor and has so much charisma that he looks convincing and deadly dangerous all over the film, with a human twist by the end. He may be actually the only reason for which the sentimental turn taken by the story towards its end does not look so bad despite the (bad) cartoonish Shanghai in flames.