Loaded with impeccable star cast and the kind of plot that you have always wished to watch on the big screen, sadly, ‘Shanghai’ fails to raise the tempo set by the promos I have had the chance to watch on TV. It would be inappropriate to call it a political thriller simply because the genre now presumes certain sophistication added with style which ‘Shanghai’ totally lacks.
Set in the months leading up to the bombing of Pearl Harbour, American spy Paul Soames (John Cusack) arrives in Shanghai to find his friend Conner, (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) who recently got murdered. Acting as a journalist and trying to uncover the murder mystery of his best friend, Paul befriends a local gangster Anthony Lan-Ting (Chow Yun-Fat), who is close to the Japanese occupiers and who might himself be a collaborator in Connor`s murder.
Plot thickens with Anthony`s mysterious wife Anna (Gong Li), who`s secretly working for the Chinese resistance, and for whom Paul falls the moment he meets her.
But, the film fails to capitalise on the interesting turn of events. The tension in the air can be felt, yet it seems to loose as Paul goes around searching for clues that land him directly in the orbit of a Japanese security captain (Ken Watanabe).
As already mentioned the film can hardly be called a wartime spy thriller, primarily because of the plot which unfolds leisurely and appears too muddled to fully comprehend.
The cast is solid, but John Cusack and Gong Li have no real chemistry. Ken Watanabe, meanwhile, is excellent as the mysterious Japanese captain whose motives are hard to figure out.
Won’t say it is a bad film, but it sure really tests your patience.
Rating: Two cheers for this one!