The Shanghai Job artwork

The Shanghai Job

12th February 2018

Ex-private security agent Danny Stratton is given a second chance following the biggest mistake of his career when he is tasked with escorting a valuable antique vase out of China. When the mission is derailed by a criminal gang who kidnap the woman he loves, Danny is in a race against time to find a way to both save her life and ensure that the vase remains in safe hands.
Orlando Bloom, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Xing Yu, Hannah Quinlivan, Jing Liang, Thomas Price
Action/Adventure, Martial Art, Eastern Cinema
1 Hour 35 Minutes

If you ever had the need to get something valuable from one place to another, Danny Stratton's private security agency was always the best place to call. Located in Shanghai, his handpicked team got the job done with the minimum amount of fuss but with the maximum amount of security. But, the good times didn't last as, after a Van Gogh painting in his care was stolen in a heist, Danny ended up being reduced to low level, and rather uninspiring, body-guarding operations.

With his reputation in tatters, and thanks to his Chinese ex-girlfriend, Danny is given the rare opportunity to escort a valuable Chinese antique vase out of Shanghai and onto London for an exhibition. With this one last chance to restore both his and his agency's seriously damaged reputation, Danny leaps at the chance.

Gathering his old team together the group head off to the airport with the valuable cargo. But the same gang that stole the Van Gogh painting have similar desires for the priceless vase. Once again, the team are ambushed, but this time Danny manages to escape with the vase. Recognising one of the attackers from the original heist, Denny decides not to take the vase to London, instead electing to set a trap.

Tracking down the villains to a heavily fortified - and stolen art filled - compound, and with the help of some hi-tech drones, the group hatch a plan to break in and recover the painting. But with Danny's ex-girlfriend kidnapped and held in the compound, and the police on their tail, the pressure is on to get the job done so they can get in., get out and get even.

Whilst the transfer is a clean one, with an average bit-rate throughout, the 2.40:1 picture is actually a bit of a disappointment. As the production had a rumoured budget of $30,000,000 dollars (which I guess can be classed as "budget" these days) the transfer is actually quite soft and looks something more like a music video from some wannabe rapper. In fact, I'd go as far as saying it looks like a transfer of your typical low budget Chinese film - which, given the production origins, is a bit too much of a coincidence for my liking.

Given the action based nature of the film, with speeding cars, flying fists and explosions, the on screen action can become a frantic. Unfortunately, this is where things become a problem - with some major outlining issues and a fair amount of grain. Even the darker scenes looked washed out and, although the general cityscape and night time scenes of the neon-drenched city of Shanghai look good, general flesh and skin tones are pretty poor.

Fortunately, the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is a little better, with some punchy techno music accompanying the action scenes along with some good use of the surround channels. Stereo steerage in the front channels is pretty good too and the dialogue remains solidly locked in the centre channel throughout. Even the sub-woofer manages to rumble into life with some LFE effects.

After viewing trailers for Rise of the Foot Soldier 3 and Renegades you are greeted with a static and silent menu. The only options are scene selection and audio selection. However, there are no subtitles for the hard of hearing and the only time you'll get to see some subtitles is when some Mandarin is spoken.

Extras wise, you get... well... you get the film and that's it. Not even the trailer. The only thing that could even come close to being called an extra would be the outtakes in the closing credits, and even then, they'd be hardly worthwhile hanging around in the theatre for.

Most people will remember Orlando Bloom from Pirates of the Caribbean, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - and, like most cinema goers, we'll forget about Kingdom of Heaven and The Three Musketeers. With these titles under is belt I guess he's got a little fed up of being called a "Hobbit" so it appears Orlando Bloom has had a go at trying something new and relaunching his career. He's never really been in anything in a "hard man" role, so, with some newly bleached hair, it looks like he's puffed out his chest, put on a white t-shirt, stuck a plaster over a cut, put on a serious face and attempted to just do that.

So, has it worked? Well, the first signs aren't good as The Shanghai Job bypassed the UK cinemas and headed straight onto DVD via budget distributor Signature Entertainment (nothing wrong with that mind, Signature have some cracking titles in their catalogue). Furthermore, the British-Chinese production had to undergo a title change for the US and UK markets - it was initially released in China under the rather bizarre, and uninspiring, name of S.M.A.R.T. Chase. Still, given the film is bankrolled by the Chinese, I guess they can call it whatever they like.

But what is more far more worrying for Orlando Bloom is that, until I happened to notice that Katy Perry's excellent song "Roulette" was used in the film (albeit only in the closing credits) - and ultimately heavily promoted as such (never mind the film starred poor old Orlando Bloom) - I never even knew the film existed. You really have to wonder whether their public relations department was run by intern during their summer holiday from school.

So, rant over, is The Shanghai Job actually any good? Well that's a tricky one really. If you can put up with the awfully cheesy dialogue, you're a bit of an action fan and like Ocean's 11 - or in this case Danny's 4 - you could always give this one a try. All the usual things are present - car chases, explosions and fights. It really does try to have good intentions.

But then again, I'm an action fan too, and the awful (and occasionally rather pointless) dialogue really started to grate. At one point during the film I found myself reading Facebook on my phone. Never the less, I'm still willing to let this one through - if only to get a sense of the Shanghai - but, in trying to appeal to a Western audience, the Chinese film industry still has an awful a lot to learn.

Finally, The Shanghai Job is not a very good advertisement for the Chinese car industry as they appear to fall apart all far to easily, with bits of panelling, plastic and bumpers strewn all over the road at the slightest hint of an accident.

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