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Once Upon a Time in Shanghai ("E Zhan")

Canadian Premiere
  • Hong Kong
  • 2014
  • 97 mins
  • DCP
  • Mandarin
  • English (subtitles)
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“Packed with hardcore action... a superb visual feast... Yuen Woo-ping delivers sharp and complex action choreography” - Yannie Chan, HK MAGAZINE

Opium and kung fu! The glory days of old Shanghai — or are they? It’s a truly international city, infested with poverty and run ruthlessly behind the scenes by the notorious triads, the Axe Gang. The status quo goes to hell, though, when Lung (Andy On), along with his pet tiger, defeats one of the bosses and begins his occupation of big chunk of Shanghai. Meanwhile, Ma Wing-Jing (Philip Ng), a newly arrived hobo, shows up with nothing except his invincible fists and abs of steel, and challenges Lung to a death-defying duel. A shipment of priceless opium is destroyed in the process. This cements Lung’s respect for him and the duo quickly become blood brothers. However the three remaining Axe Gang bosses are not amused and conspire with the newly arrived Japanese businessmen (who also happen to be fighting experts) to restore Shanghai to its former state, with a few new, modern twists. How will they turn the two buddies against each other? Will they exploit Lung’s main weakness, his girlfriend? Her mysterious father (played by the legendary Sammo Hung) may have previously been connected to the Axe Gang. But in the end, only one tiger can remain standing.

Two generations of true kung fu experts collide in the spectacular martial arts feast ONCE UPON A TIME IN SHANGHAI. Philip Ng, a real-life Wing Chun expert (the same form as Bruce Lee and Ip Man), explodes in his first starring role with his dynamic fighting skills on full display. The breathtaking battle between him and co-star Andy On is pure kung fu nirvana. On (also this year’s THAT DEMON WITHIN), a graduate of Jackie Chan’s Stunt Team, oozes across the screen with self-assured cool and athletic power. Donnie Yen may be the current king of kung fu cinema, but these rising tigers are princes, ready to ascend to the throne one day to conquer kung fu cinema with their fists. The breathtaking action choreography is brought to life by masters Yuen Woo Ping (THE MATRIX, CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) and Yuen Cheung-Yan (IRON MONKEY), keeping all fights graceful and eloquent, yet fast and furious with modern relish. Inspired by the original Shaw Brothers classic, Chang Cheh’s BOXER FROM SHANTUNG (the original star has a cameo!), this new version retains the spirit but yields a fresh take on its subject matter, and unleashes an assortment of exhilarating fight scenes!

— King-Wei Chu