ON DVD & BLU-RAY
The Shanghai Job (2017) DVD (Signature Entertainment)
A bid to restore his reputation
Orlando Bloom plays Danny Stratton, a British private security agent working in Shanghai whose organisation S.M.A.R.T. delivers priceless artifacts for high-paying clientele. His reputation is damaged when a Van Gogh gets stolen in a heist on a security van which he is occupying. This loss of face also results in his estrangement from his girlfriend Ling (Lynn Hung).
A year later he gets a chance to put things right when he is assigned to transport an antique vase from Shanghai to London. With the help of Ling’s father Mach (Simon Yam), computer whizz drone operator DingDong (Lei Wu) and J. Jae (Hannah Quinlivan) they escort the vase towards the airport. On the way, however, they are ambushed by a criminal gang on bikes who attempt to steal it for themselves. During the ensuing fracas, Danny notices that the head of the gang is the same man whom he witnessed stealing the Van Gogh from him a year earlier.
After a considerable struggle the S.M.A.R.T. team manages to get the vase back. However, at the airport, Danny decides not to board the plane for London. He has instead figured out a wildly risky plan to use the vase as a lure to get him into the gang’s headquarters, thus giving him an opportunity to retrieve the long-lost Van Gogh and fully restore his company’s reputation once and for all.
Watch a trailer:
Orlando Bloom as a Jason Statham clone?
This action film, a Chinese-British co-production which is listed on IMDB under the title of S.M.A.R.T. Chase, was reportedly a major flop during its theatrical run in China. As a result of its failure to find an audience there it has bypassed the UK theatrical circuit in favour of a release direct to EST & VOD on 29th January 2018 and DVD on 5th February 2018 - this time under the somewhat snappier title of The Shanghai Job.
Understandably, I approached this one with some trepidation. Add to that the prospect of Legolas himself, Orlando Bloom, playing a Jason Statham-style no-nonsense action man and Charles Martin (who helmed the E4 series Skins) taking the directorial reins… hmmm. However, the results are somewhat better than I had feared. The Shanghai Job isn’t going to make many people’s Desert Island Movies list but it is entertaining for what it is: a lightweight action flick designed for frittering away an hour and a half in front of the screen in an undemanding manner.
Charles Martin does a solid, slick job of his first big-screen venture. He makes the most of the vast Shanghai landscapes with its contrasts of brightly-lit nighttime skyscrapers and gritty backstreets. The extensive use of multicoloured neon is becoming a bit of a cliche now (it is featured in just about every action film nowadays from Only God Forgives to Atomic Blonde) but at least it’s a visually beautiful cliche. The action scenes flow well with some great pacing and camerawork, the latter including plentiful tracking and drone shots. The actors are all given fairly stock roles but are pleasing enough. Bloom’s Statham impersonation is a bit too blatant (he even has the same Cockney accent) but he has enough of a sense of physicality to convince during the fight scenes. However, it is Lei Wu who arguably steals the show as the nerdish but charming DingDong. The plot is comic book stuff but played with just enough humour to give itself a pass.
A predictable and mild action film
So far, so good. However, it never really amounts to anything more than a piece of disposable entertainment. The story beats are all pretty predictable; there are a number of “surprise villains” who can be spotted a mile off, while the sundry “complications” that occur as Danny tries to put everything back in order are rather textbook stuff. The slower moments of the film also tend to fall rather flat due to some truly leaden dialogue. This is particularly true of the scenes between Danny and Ling; we never really get any feeling of a strong prior connection between them so there’s a lack of impetus for the audience to want to see them get back together.
However, it’s arguable that the main reason why this film has been dumped straight to the home viewing circuit over here is that it feels like it hearkens back a decade or so ago to an era when action films (such as The Transporter and Jason Bourne series) aimed squarely at a PG-13 rating. The emphasis here is on chases and martial arts fights with plentiful crunching sound effects but not much bloodshed. People come out with some bruises and bloody noses but nobody actually dies. There’s a bit involving a severed finger that’s mildly gruesome but that’s as far as it goes. In these days of John Wick, Logan, Atomic Blonde and The Villainess modern action audiences seem to be looking for high body counts and graphic injuries. Even so, The Shanghai Job is a satisfying time waster.
Runtime: 90 mins
Dir: Charles Martin
Script: Kevin Bernhardt
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Simon Yam, Lynn Hung, Xing Yu, Hannah Quinlivan, Thomas Price, Lei Wu, Jing Liang, Ruoxi Wang
The visuals and colours look great, while the sound effects and soundtrack are very crisp. However, the dialogue is a little too far down in the mix and hard to make out at times.
None at all.
If you are up for a straight-ahead action film without much bloodshed then you will probably enjoy The Shanghai Job. While nothing outstanding, it is slickly made and it delivers enough excitement.