Shanghai
One of the best movies you've never heard of
By: Don Morton | Aug 18, 2011 | Issue: 908 | No Comments | 3,881 views

© 2009 TWC Asian Film Fund, LLC. All rights reserved.

Title in Japan: Shanghai
Director: Mikael Hafstrom
Starring: John Cusack, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe
Year: 2010
Running Time: 105 min

It’s puzzling that this picture has yet to find a US distributor. It’s an action/espionage/romance/noir thriller that could well be one of the best movies you’ve never heard of. At any rate, I’d rather discover an underpublicized gem than sit through an over-hyped disappointment. To be sure, it’s a bit of a potboiler (difficult not to be, set amid the turmoil of 1941 China), but it’s got plenty of style, the production values are flawless, and it features strong performances by John Cusack and some of Asia’s top stars. The intrigue begins as Cusack, a naval intelligence officer under cover as a pro-Nazi journalist, arrives in the “Paris of the Orient” during the days leading up to Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor to investigate the murder of a fellow agent and friend. He’s soon trading innuendoes with a local Triad leader (Chow Yun-Fat) who’s tight with the city’s Japanese occupiers, his stunning wife (a powerful, multilayered Gong Li) who has her own secret agenda, and the local Japanese intelligence honcho (Ken Watanabe, as always showing depth and humanity). Also David Morse and Rinko Kikuchi. Directed by Mikael Hafstrom, who did Derailed and 1408.

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