The legendary Chang Cheh directs an all-star cast in a tale of espionage pre-World War II that ends in a blistering third act kung fu bonanza.
Shot in Taiwan towards the end of one hell of a rich and illustrious career, Chang Cheh’s SHANGHAI 13 is set in prewar Shanghai when it was the de facto capital of the Reorganized National Government of the Republic of China. Mr. Gao (Chiang Ming) stumbled across communication that exposes the Reorganized National Government as nothing more than a puppet state for the Japanese (which of course it was). With the help of Black Hat (Jimmy Wang Yu, ONE-ARMED BOXER, MASTER OF THE FLYING GUILLOTINE), he steals the dossier with hopes of exposing and overthrowing the Japanese. Now on the lam and a target for assassination, the action kicks into overdrive.
Gao enlists the help of an underworld bodyguard outfit, the titular Shanghai 13, to get him and his dossier safely on a ship out of the port of Shanghai. But as he probably should have anticipated with nefarious criminals, some members of the Shanghai 13 can be paid off to undermine the mission.
This tees up a blistering third act, something of a final bow Chang Cheh’s signature craft: incredible martial arts choreography by some of his long time collaborators, including original Venoms Ti Lung and Chiang Sheng as well as veteran stars Chi Kuan-chun (BOXER REBELLION) and David Chiang (ONE-ARMED SWORDSMAN). Blood-erupting impacts, show motion elegance and complex choreography, all Chang Cheh signature moves, are never better. Shanghai 13 also features an early role by Andy Lau (INFERNAL AFFAIRS, HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS) who would take the torch from this crew and lead the next generation of Hong Kong matinee idols. (Tim League)