Shanghai Affairs


1998 (Lead /Action Director)

Although credited as director for this period movie, Yen directed the action sequences and a few dramatic scenes. Yen plays Tong Shan, an altruistic doctor who works in the hospital of a British physician and sets up a clinic in a poor district of Shanghai. Here the locals are harassed by the district’s godfather (Yu Wing-gong) and his thugs. Complicating matters is the gangster’s mute sister, whom Tong Shan cures. She falls in love with him, as does her caretaker, also the gangster’s girlfriend. If that weren’t enough, children are disappearing from the streets and found murdered, with their vital organs missing. Despite his vow to avoid conflict, Tong Shan, also skilled in the martial arts, discovers it’s only a matter of time before he must get involved.

It’s easy to single out Yen’s directorial work on this movie. Look particularly for tight shots in which expression reveals everything; these kinds of shots may become his trademark in future. His composition and framing always has depth with a pictorial look, with careful attention to the placement of props for positioning. He always establishes an opening and there’s got to be something going on. Yen is much influenced by Japanese cinema, especially early Kurosawa, and several dramatic scenes include little dialogue, with characters establishing their relationships in other ways, always intimate and with a distinctive look.

The action’s pretty dynamic. There’s much hand-to-hand combat, grappling style, between Yen and the godfather’s ax gang and some solid fighting between Yen and Yu. Pacing, props, and tracking become part of the fight scenes; there’s even some slo-mo and fast shots to register their intensity.

Cast: Donnie Yen, Yu Wing-gong, Athena Chu

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