Shanghai Grand

Director Poon Man-kit clearly models his 1996 gangland romance on John Woo's action melodramas, but it's overwrought and underwritten, interesting only for its star power and ornate production design. Set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during the 40s, it features Leslie Cheung as a Taiwanese patriot bent on revenge (a role Chow Yun-fat played in a 70s Hong Kong TV series); Cheung helps street sweeper Andy Lau shoot his way to the top, but inevitably the men's loyalty is tested by their love for the same woman (Ling Jing), the daughter of the gang chieftain who had Cheung's comrades massacred. The flashbacks detailing Ning and Cheung?s meeting have a wistful, dreamy aura that nicely foreshadows their doomed affair, and Ling proves a riveting presence, petulant and seductive. Lau and Cheung (both pop-singer matinee idols) supply plenty of boyish charm and languid poses, but they never quite generate the homoerotic heat that permeates Woo's films. Though expertly edited, most of this looks like a fashion montage, gorgeous but essentially inert.

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