I finally made it to see my first movie of the film festival. I am organizing my time to see a few more as I start feeling better gradually 🙂 Although I did miss the one that I anticipated the most, I did end up finding a few that I missed the first time I was looking at the whole list of movies. Last night, I went to see the historical crime thriller The Last Tycoon! Let’s check it out!
Director: Jing Wong
Cheng Daqi (Chow Yun-Fat) is one of the biggest mob bosses in Shanghai in 1937. From the time when he was just a poor boy (young Daqi by Xiaoming Huang) working at a fruit stall at the countryside, he rises up after seeking refuge in Shanghai from being framed for killing his boss and afterwards being saved by a secret service soldier Mao Zai (Francis Ng), who also teaches him how to kill. In Shanghai, he uses his guts and courage to move up in the underworld mobs and eventually is taken as an apprentice under Mr. Hong (Sammo Hung), one of the biggest gangsters in the early 1900s who is also a police captain. As he uses his quick thinking to help his master and then saves him from the new General, he rises up to be Mr. Hong’s sworn brother and together they earn money and get involved into different types of businesses until 1937 when they are asked to help against the Japanese invasion by the secret service unit there. At the same time, Daqi’s old flame ends up in Shanghai with her husband who also has a secret agenda. Daqi now has to worry not only for himself and his family but also make the choice to save his country and also balance it between his old love.
Fantasia categorized this as a historical crime thriller. I hold out on that a little mostly because I’m not completely sure if there is a historical factor to it. For one, the invasion of the Japanese did in fact happen and I believe my mom told me that one of the characters there is based on a true historical character. I still have to do a bit of research on it. Regardless, this was very much an action thriller packed with a whole lot of underlying political values and morals in both a coming of age as we watch how Cheng Daqi moves up to become one of the biggest mob bosses in the underworld of Shanghai and also the struggles to maintain a balance between making the right choices of becoming allied with the Japanese as they invade Shanghai (and China as a whole) or to use the power he had to conquer and defend. It was also a story of brotherhood and loyalty.
Chow Yun-Fat’s character was definitely refreshing. Its been a while that he has been in an action thriller where we see him fully engaged in action to fight and shoot. He is absolutely a great actor and in this flick, he leads it very well. Even his younger self played by Xiaoming Huang, which I came to learn from my mom and is also in real life an actor that Chow Yun-Fat has taken under his wing to teach him better acting skills, was pretty impressive. Cheng Daqi needed someone to reenacted by someone with the tough and calm charisma that Chow Yun-Fat can bring especially when faced with the scheming parties that surrounds him in this flick. He had so many good quotes also! This one was in the trailer:
I’ve never been afraid of anything in my life…except being a traitor. – Cheng Daqi (Chow Yun-Fat)
Another one they used in the Cantonese version final trailer:
I personally would want to rewatch it in Cantonese because thats the original language of the movie even though I saw this in Mandarin.
Sammo Hung had a smaller role in The Last Tycoon. However, Francis Ng as Mao Zai who plays a controversial and pretty intense character who is a government commander who also has some secret service type of description behind it. I’m a huge fan of the peculiar characters that Francis Ng chooses to act. He always lives up to them and he brings exactly that, character. There’s always some new charisma that he can bring on screen and this one was no exception.
On the reigns of this movie, we have director Jing Wong. I’ve reviewed a few movies by him before and he is one of my absolute favorites as he directed most of the Stephen Chow movies and this is the second movie he collaborates with Chow Yun-Fat after God of Gambler. He makes this movie with a lot of style. As we enter into Shanghai, we see the contrasts of lights and architecture and just the glamour of all the fame with the nightlife and the mobs underworld. The setting is just so nice to look at.
Aside from that, we open with beautiful music that reminds of the era that its set in. The soundtrack in general matches the scenes perfectly. Whether its the songs that they chose during certain scenes or the background music that makes this movie feel majestic, courageous and maybe even a bit patriotic.
This probably won’t be the best Chinese action movie that I have seen but it does have an amazing style that director Jing Wong brings to it. Chow Yun-Fat comes back with not only action but plays the role of Cheng Daqi in an outstanding way. With him, Xiaoming Huang is an amazing young actor that portrays the guts and courage and desire to rise up from the younger Cheng Daqi. Francis Ng brings in the intensity in the movie. Its a pretty awesome movie in general and definitely worth a watch! 🙂