Chow Yun Fat and Sammo Hung may not be familiar names to fans who do not follow Hong Kong cinema but both have had huge hits in the past and this is one of the few times that both have starred in a film together.
Director Wong Jing has a long history in Hong Kong Cinema, he has made some good ones including God Of Gamblers and High Risk but most of his output has been poor but enjoyable.
The Last Tycoon charts the rise and fall of real-life gangster Cheng Daqi and starts in 1913 when young Cheng (Huang Xiaoming) murders a crooked cop after being blackmailed by influential soldier Mao Zai (a great performance from Francis Ng). He flees to Shanghai leaving behind his girlfriend Zhiqiu (Feng Wenjuan) who heads to Beijing to study opera. While in Shanghai he becomes friends with another corrupt cop chief Hong Shouting (Sammo Hung) and the two become buddies in crime. Now its 1937 and Cheng (now played by Chow Yun Fat) is like everyone else affected greatly by the Japanese invasion of Shanghai, he is a big man in the city now and proudly faces up to the invaders. But he once again meets corrupt cop Mao Zai and is asked to do things that put his loyalty and friendship to the ultimate test.
The film flips back and forwards in time, leaving the viewer a little confused at times. The action is fast and brutal, with street gang brawls and shoot outs in churches (a nod to the John Woo / Chow Yun Fat classic The Killer). The costumes and set design are excellent, this is the best looking Wong Jing film i have ever seen, but sadly the story never really engages as it should. The cast is excellent, Chow Yun Fat still has the charisma and Sammo Hung, while not given a lot to do supports him well. Look out also for Gao Hu as Cheng’s fearlessly loyal, knife-wielding lieutenant. Overall an enjoyable war time action / drama with excellent production values, its a shame it never quite reaches what it aims for.
The Blu ray released in Hong Kong by Deltamac is excellent quality, a 1080p solid transfer, good black levels and the bold colours really stand out. Audio is very loudly mixed, especially during the action scenes, you are given a choice of Mandarin or Cantonese DTS MA7.1, the surround mix is very bold with surround speakers given a good workout! English subtitles are provided and are clear and precise and easy to understand. Extra’s are the usual making of, deleted scenes and trailers. The disc is locked to Region A. Well Go in the USA are set to release this film onto Blu ray in September.
FILM: 7 OUT OF 10
PICTURE: 8 OUT OF 10
AUDIO: 7.5 OUT OF 10
EXTRAS: 3 OUT OF 10