are explosions, talk of independence, and a villain named Mao. What more could you ask for in a Fourth of
July screening? Shanghai’s most prominent
gangster and his two very different mentors will choose up sides amid the
turmoil of Republican era China in Wong Jing’s The Last Tycoon (trailer here) which screens today during the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.
Daqi is very loosely based on the real life historical figure, Du Yuesheng, a
high-ranking Shanghai mobster, who supported the Nationalists out of
anti-Communist and anti-Japanese sentiments.
As a young man, Cheng always intended to make a name for himself in the
big city, but a scrape with a corrupt cop forced his hand. It also introduced him to his temporary
cellmate, Mao Zai, an army officer serving as an unofficial liaison to the
underworld. When Mao’s men spring them
from prison, Cheng follows them to Shanghai.
quickly raises through the ranks, apprenticing under the top gangster, Hong
Shouting. However, he still remembers
his great love, Ye Zhiqui. She has also
fulfilled her ambition to become the toast of Beijing’s opera, eventually
marrying Cheng Zhaimei, a scholar and clandestine operative in the
revolutionary underground. Of all the nightclubs
in Shanghai, Ye and her husband walk into Cheng Daqi’s, because it is the
biggest and most ostentatious.
are echoes of Casablanca throughout Tycoon, but Wong never slavishly
parallels the Bogart classic. He also
departs considerably from the established facts of Du’s life. However, he clearly plays to the strengths of
his star, Chow Yun-fat, giving him plenty of opportunity to blast away
two-handed while dressed to the nines.
Although The Assassins was
pretty good, Tycoon is really the
sort of film his fans have been waiting years for.
does his stone cold cool thing and it still works like a charm. Sammo Hung also brings all kinds of gravitas
and good karma as his patriotic master, Hong.
Clearly enjoying the heavy role, Francis Ng is charismatically
villainous as the turncoat Mao Zai (not Zedong, but close enough for the 4th). While his Mao is not exactly analogous to
Claude Rains’ Captain Renault, Monica Mok really throws a wrench in the Casablanca works as Cheng Daqi’s wife,
Bao. Sensitive but strong and resilient,
she rather walks away with the audience’s sympathies.
Produced by special festival guest Andrew Lau, Tycoon is the sort of sprawling gangster/war
epic that HK cinema does so well. It is
a quality period production, boasting quite a few get-your-money’s-worth action
sequences. Sure to satisfy fans of the
all-star cast and martial arts shoot-outs, The
Last Tycoon screens tonight (7/4) at the Walter Reade Theater, as part of
the 2013 New York Asian Film Festival.
Happy 4th of July.
Labels: Chow Yun-fat, Gangster Films, Hong Kong Cinema, Martial arts cinema, Monica Mok, NYAFF '13, Sammo Hung