This big-ticket summer release is actually a remake
of an old TVB series Shanghai Beach, which was
famous for its pairing of Chow Yun-Fat as Hui Man-Keung
and Ray Lui as Ding Lik. Tsui Hark has cast Leslie Cheung
and Andy Lau in the two roles, with Poon Man-Kit (To
Be Number One) on board as director.
Cheung is Hui Man-Keung, who’s
on the run from evil Chinese bastards who know he’s
a Taiwanese spy. After he escapes from a Chinese femme
fatale (Almen Wong), he surfaces in Shanghai, where
he’s found by Ting Lik (Andy Lau). Ting is a triad nobody,
but somehow the two manage to create an empire together.
Then it’s all screwed up by a woman, the ever important
Fung Jing Jing (Ning Jing). Ting Lik loves her and intends
to marry her, but her heart belongs to another - namely
The film is told in a strange
three story structure, each focusing on one of the three
primary characters. The result is a time-shifting narrative
that manages to entertain, but that may be because of
the stellar leads and Stephen Tung’s action. Both Andy
Lau and Leslie Cheung do well with their roles, though
both are too old for the parts and neither could ever
hold a candle to Chow Yun-Fat.
Ning Jing is the weak link
among the three leads, as her performance seems distant
and flat. Perhaps Charlie Young would have been a better
choice (she was originally chosen to play Jing Jing).
Tsui Hark has infused the story with some of his trademark
politics, but it doesn’t really detract from the main
point of the entire exercise: big stars, big plot, commercial
film. A success, but an empty one. (Kozo 1997)