Shanghai is surprisingly underwhelming

Shangai is a 2015 release currently available on Netflix DVD.

If you’re a John Cusack fan like I am, and always wanted to appreciate him as a romantic lead, you’re still going to have to wait. He does his best in this film, which sat on the Hollywood shelf for five years, but he falls flat.

Cusack stars as a naval spy masquerading as a journalist in the days just before America’s involvement in WWII. He travels from Germany to Shanghai because his best friend, also a spy, has gone missing, and as soon as Paul Soames arrives (Cusack) his friend turns up dead.

A promising beginning, but it gets mangled up with a lot of sub-plots about the Japanese mafia in China and a couple of married women Cusack is sort of/kind of involved with. The film has a magnificent cast, including Chow Yun Fat as the lead gangster and Gong Li as his beautiful but underhanded wife.

Soames goes on a hunt for his friend’s lover, another spy of sorts who also happens to be an opium addict. Sound confusing? It is.

There’s a good bit of violence, not a lot of sex, and it’s a bit of a jog to get through and understand. But you can get through it, if you like the stars and the costumes. It was produced on a movie set, so it doesn’t seem very genuine.

The ending is pablum, and Soames’ romantic future remains in doubt.But it’s not an entire disaster.

Grade: C+

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