LORD OF SHANGHAI (2017) review

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After Law Wing Cheong’s Iceman and John Woo’s The Crossing, the ambitious diptych format took another hit with Sherwood Hu’s Lord of Shanghai, whose box office flop has led to the release date of its second installment (known as Lord of Shanghai II or The Concubine of Shanghai) being pushed back indefinitely. Based on a 2003 novel by Hong Ying, Lord of Shanghai starts in 1905, with the city controlled by western powers and dangerous triads. Chang Lixiong (Hu Jun), charismatic head of the Hong triad, is butting heads with Commander Song (Liu Peiqi) over the arrival of revolutionary agent Huang Peiyu (Qin Hao): in the last years of the Qing dynasty, Chang has chosen the side of the revolution. Chang and Song are also adversaries in the whorehouse of Madam Xin (Bai Ling), as they both covet the same newly-arrived peasant girl, Xiao Yuegui (Li Meng, then Yu Nan after years have passed). As their feud escalates, Yuegui becomes much more important than a mere prize.

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THE VANISHED MURDERER (2015) review

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After 2012’s stylish and entertaining – and much less derivative than it’s been made out to be –  The Bullet Vanishes, Lau Ching Wan’s inspector Song Donglu (Lau Ching Wan) is back, his adventures still written by Yeung Sin Ling, produced by Derek Yee and directed by Law Chi Leung. This time, Song investigates a series of strange suicides: factory workers throwing themselves from atop buildings, to protest their exploitative employer, corrupt businessman Gao Minxiong (Guo Xiaodong). Song surmises that they’ve been ‘forced’ to commit suicide, and has reasons to think that Fu Yuan (Jiang Yiyan), a woman whom he brought to justice after she almost got away with murdering her abusive husband, and who counseled him from her prison cell in The Bullet Vanishes, may have something to do with what’s happening. Indeed, she recently escaped from prison, and it was to bring her back there that Song was in town. Other suspects include Hua (Lam Ka Tung), a professor with a morphine addiction who has been in contact with Fu Yuan and shares her appetite for criminology, and Mao Jin (Rydhian Vaughan), who may or may not be a dirty cop. As the plot thickens, Song can count on the help of Chang Sheng (Li Xiaolu), a woman he left at the altar years ago, and who’s sticking with him, hoping to get closure.

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CHRONICLES OF THE GHOSTLY TRIBE (2015) review

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In an unexpected move, director Lu Chuan has made his fifth film an effects-heavy blockbuster far-removed from the arty and often demanding works that made him a justly celebrated auteur and festival darling. His previous film, the long-delayed epic The Last Supper (2012), had suffered commercially both from its stone-cold arthouse leanings, and from being released months after a much more appealing film on the same topic, Daniel Lee’s White Vengeance (2012). And once again, with Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe, Lu Chuan found himself directing one of two competing films, both based on Tianxia Bachang’s 2006 best-selling novel Ghost Blows Out the Light, the other being Wuershan’s Mojin: The Lost Legend. This time however, Lu got his film out of the gate first, and by the same token his first major commercial hit. Though set earlier than the Wuershan film in the book’s chronology, Chronicles of the Ghostly Tribe isn’t a prequel: it’s a rival adaptation with an entirely different backing, creative team and cast, as well as a wildly different approach to the source material.

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