Written by: Michael Den Boer on January 12th, 2015
BluRay released: January 13th, 2015
Approximate running time: 96 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1 Widescreen / 1080 Progressive / MPEG-4 AVC
Sound: DTS-HD 5.1 Mandarin, Dolby Digital Stereo Mandarin, DTS-HD 5.1 English, Dolby Digital Stereo English
BluRay Release: Well Go USA
Region Coding: Region A
Retail Price: $29.98
Synopsis: A young man named Ma with dreams of making it rich in Shanghai quickly discovers that the big city will eat you alive if you don’t stand up for yourself. Along the way Ma befriends an up and coming crime boss who takes him under his wing. This new friendship puts a strain on Ma’s friendship with those who helped take care of him when he first arrived in Shanghai and sinister Japanese forces that are also vying for control of Shanghai. Things come to a boiling point when all those who have associated with Ma are slaughtered by rival gangs and the Japanese military. With his back against a wall, Ma is forced to break a promise he made to his mother before arriving in Shanghai. He has an exceptional strong fist that can kill someone in just one fatal death blow!
Once Upon A Time In Shanghai was directed by Wong Ching Po, who’s other notable films include, Triad Underworld and Revenge: A Love Story. The screenplay for Once Upon A Time In Shanghai was written by Wong Jing, a prolific triple threat (screenwriter, producer and director). A few of his standout films as include, Royal Tramp, Naked Killer, The Enforcer (as screenwriter and producer) and Ebola Syndrome (as producer). The co-producer for Once Upon A Time In Shanghai Wai-Keung Lau (Infernal Affairs) another triple threat (cinematography, producer and director). A few of his standout films as include, City on Fire, As Tears Go By, Chungking Express (as cinematographer) and The Storm Riders (as director).
Since the first time I ever saw a martial arts film, I have always been enthralled by them. Sure the majority of formulaic and almost to default. And yet despite this short coming my desire to see as many as I could get my hands on has never wavered throughout the years. And its hold on me over the years comes to down to one thing, it’s simplicity in regards to plot and character development, while the main focal point should always remain on its action set pieces.
This brings us to Once Upon A Time In Shanghai as story that comes out swinging and only gives the bare essentials of this film’s protagonists back-story. And it is precisely in this opening moments that this film’s lay’s out with the utmost clarity what type of film it is going to be. Content wise, there is going to be a lot of bone crunching and at times jaw dropping action set pieces. While anyone expecting a robust narrative driven by dramatic moments are sure to be disappointed with this film’s lack of character development. Needless to say this film is you are a fan of action set pieces, this film delivers and then some.
Besides well executed and inventive action set pieces, another area which this film often excels is its rock solid visuals. Also pacing is never an issues as the film does a very good job maintaining peaks and valleys in the protagonist journey. With of course the film’s finale being this film most memorable moment. In the finale the protagonist enters a heavily armed building and must move through a series of obstacles / fighters who all get tougher as he gets closer to saving the woman he loves.
The cast for this film are top notch and it even features a few well-known actors’ films martial arts cinemas past like, Kuan Tai Chen (Boxer from Shantung) and Sammo Kam-Bo Hung (Magnificent Butcher, Eastern Condors). And performance the entire cast are all exceptional in their respective roles, especially Philip Ng (Invisible Target) in the role of Ma. He does a remarkable job channeling the essence of Bruce Lee. Another stand out performance comes from Andy On (New Police Story, Mad Detective) in the role of Long Qi, an up and coming crime boss that befriends Ma. Also besides the aforementioned excellent action set pieces. The most engaging moments are the scenes where Ma and Long Qi interact, especially the moment they are introduced.
Once Upon A Time In Shanghai comes on a 25 GB single layer BluRay. The film is presented in a 1080 progressive widescreen. This transfer does a great job retaining the look of this film. Details always look crisp, contrast and black levels look solid and there are no issues with DNR or compression.
This release comes with four audio options, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin, a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in Mandarin, a DTS-HD 5.1 mix in English and a Dolby Digital Stereo mix in English. You really can’t go wrong clarity wise with all four audio mixes which offer crystal clear dialog, robust action set pieces and everything sounds balanced throughout. Also the more ambient aspects of the soundtrack sound superb throughout and range wise things always sound great. Of course when choosing which audio mix to go with that clear answer is the DTS-HD 5.1 mix in Mandarin, with the other Mandarin mix being the next best option. In regards to the two English audio mixes, they are both well done and rank among some of the better English dubbed audio mixes that I have heard in a very long while. With that being said, nothing beats listening to a film in its native tongue and this film takes it to another level when listened to in Mandarin. Also included with this release are removable English subtitles that are easy to read and follow.
Extras for this release include a trailer for the film (1 minute 34 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen) and a brief ‘Making of’ segment (4 minutes 39 seconds – 1080 Progressive Widescreen, in Mandarin with English subtitles). This ‘Making of’ segment is a collection of onset footage. Also included with this release are trailers for other titles also available from Well Go USA. Overall Once Upon A Time In Shanghai gets a first rate audio / video presentation from Well Go USA.
Note: This film is also being released by Well Go USA on DVD.