I had a chance to see Wong Ching-Po’s epic Once Upon A Time In Shanghai. This is a classic story of two amazing kung-fu masters. Lung is a young gangster rising in power while Ma Wing-Jing is a penniless young worker just arrived off the boat. After a confrontation, Lung befriends the naive Ma Wing-Jing offering him a job. The two become like brothers while the gangsters of the Axe Gang conspire to bring down Lung.
The movie is an amazing display of martial arts, patriotism and vengeance. The subdued tones of the visual constantly bring down the color to an almost classic black and white while highlighting critical elements of the storyline, like Ma’s jade bracelet given to him by his Mother so he doesn’t kill with his fist. Also appearing in the film, legendary kung fu artist Sammo Hung plays the community leader that leads, feeds and protects the ragtag group of workers.
Recommended for martial arts enthusiasts who are looking for a new classic. There’s the usual hyper-patriotism of Chinese films set in the era (translation: the Japanese are the bad guys) played loud. The classic look and feel of the gangster era is romanticized to an almost fantasy level. Lung even owns a tiger like an old style James Bond villain. Still, the settings are top notch, the mixes of color and grayness are a great touch and the two main leads are heroically idealistic and believably charismatic.