That Sneak Peek Moment in the Shanghai Trailer

The Film: Shanghai

What We Know So Far: Released in 2010 in Asia and Europe, the North American release comes five years later and the trailer has finally dropped. This story takes place a few months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, as an American Naval Intelligence Officer heads to Japanese-controlled Shanghai and discovers corruption, love, and murder.

The Trailer: (Official North American #1)


Our Take

CHow Yun-Fat. Gong-Li (The Weinstein Company)
CHow Yun-Fat. Gong-Li (The Weinstein Company)

Dan: The trailer for Shanghai promises spies, war, Pearl Harbor, Chinese crimelords, gunfights, and explosions. Throw in a little romance and dramatic intrigue and we have what looks like a promising historical hit. I’m loving the Film Noir elements. The photography is beautiful and the  set design is intricate. This really looks like a carefully tended to epic spy thriller. The cast is equally impressive. We have John Cusack in a dramatic lead, Gong Li (Curse of the Golden Flower, Memoirs of a Geisha) as the astonishing sultry female lead, and Ken Watanabe (Inception, Godzilla) as the primary antagonist (or so it seems). The most intriguing element is Chow Yun-Fat (Hard Boiled, Anna and the King) as a Chinese gangster. For me, Fat is a charismatic action hero from the 90s. He was one cool dude in John Woo balletic gunplay flicks from back in the day. He also gained mainstream success as the leading man of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It’s great to see Yun-Fat leading the way in a big budget historical thriller like this one, even if we had to wait 5 long years after its initial release to see our first glimpse trailer.  

John Cusack (The Weinstein Company)
John Cusack (The Weinstein Company)

David: The trailer has some great visuals and with a strong cast, promises some solid action and international intrigue. Always great Ken Watanabe and Chow Yun-fat look to be in great form as a Japanese captain and a Chinese crime boss, respectively. There is also Gong-li as an assassin who catches the American’s eye and seems to be working two sides. John Cusack, while a great actor, looks a little out of sorts and might be miscast as the the agent pretending to me a Nazi sympathizer. There is something a bit off in the trailer when he is on screen, particularly in the conflict moments, where he just doesn’t have the proper presence. But that aside, the story is compelling and while the trailer plays up the action more than I am willing to bet is in the film, the few moments of spy talk and thriller elements work well to tease the story.


What To Watch For in The Trailer

Left: The Killer (1989), Right: Shanghai (2015)
Left: The Killer (1989), Right: Shanghai (2015)

Dan Says: Chow Yun-Fat with the pistol, gripped like it was 1989 all over again – with shades of John Woo’s stylish and surprisingly emotional cult classic, The Killer. The trailer set the stage with the war and spy elements, but then it throws in the femme fatale and crime elements. Being a big fan of film noir this really got my attention. But then the trailer really kicks into high gear with an action sequence in 1940s nightclub, giving us my Sneak Peek Moment. When Fat pulls out his gun and starts firing, I yelled at the screen: “Oh yeah! I’m thinking he’s back.” Now give him a John Wick type flick already. While Chow Yun-Fat with guns is enough for me to buy a ticket, the cumulative effect of action, intrigue, and history takes my anticipation to new heights.

David Morse (The Weinstein Company)
David Morse (The Weinstein Company)

David Says: There are some great moment in the trailer, even though the accompanying stock soundtrack is far too bombastic. The Sneak Peek Moment comes toward the end when we briefly see a battered Paul in the backseat of a car. Next to him is Richard Astor (David Morse) who appears to be either a liaison or Paul’s superior in Shanghai. He was seen earlier telling Paul to find out who killed the American agent so he has some authority. In this quick moment, he tells Paul there is nothing he can do now, just get the hell out of Shanghai. With Paul’s physical condition and the urgency in Richard’s voice, this feels like Paul himself is in serious trouble, though naturally we know Paul will do just the opposite and get to the bottom of whatever is happening.

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  1. FilmMunch August 31, 2015
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