Runtime: 1hr. 35mins.
Netflix, Google Play, Amazon Instant
Once Upon A Time In Shanghai brings back the character of Ma Yung-Chen (a real life boxer of the Ching Dynasty era) that was made famous in Chang Cheh's 1972 film Boxer From Shantung, and again in Corey Yuen's 1997 film Hero (also known under the title: Ma Yong Zhen). It's also a chance at a lead role for upcoming star, and Hong Kong martial arts master Philip Ng.
The story is a fairly complex one revolving around the country bumpkin Ma Yung-Chen who leaves his family behind to seek out a job in the growing paradise known as Shanghai. The complexity comes in the forms of power controlling Shanghai at the time. Set in the 1930's, there are the triads, the Japanese officials, and one powerful, wealthy, martial arts master in Long Qi (Andy On) who fought his way to the top. Long Qi has been causing problems for both the triads and the Japanese officials.
Of course, the film comes down to a final battle sequence with Ma Yung-Chen ditching his shirt to look more like Bruce Lee in one of his famous final fights. Even the style of Ma's hair looks like an attempt to capture Bruce Lee's look.
There are two romances hinted at during the film, one for Ma Yung-Chen, and another for Long Qi. Long Qi's feels somewhat unwilling on both sides, and Ma Yung-Chen's is mostly hinted at, but nothing comes of it. There was probably a draft of the script where those romances played more of a factor, but somewhere along the line they fell by the wayside.