A 1986 effort from actor/director Sammo Hung Kam-Bo, "Shanghai Express" stars Sammo Hung Kam-Bo has Fong-Tin Ching, a man who returns to his hometown with a plan to revitalize the city, although it doesn't go exactly as planned. His idea: stop a train full of wealthy travelers so that they'll spend their money in his poor hometown.
The problem with Ching's plan is that a gang of bandits (one of which is played by Cynthia Rothrock, star of "Above the Law" and other Hong Kong action films - good in this film, although in a very minor role) also has their own plans for the train - namely, steal a map in the possession of a couple of passengers that will lead the gang to China's Terracotta army.
"Shanghai" mixes in quite a few genres and skips around quite a bit. It's a Western, but one moment it's a comedy, one moment in a drama, sometimes it's an action movie. To the film's credit, it actually accomplishes this fairly well, as some of the lighter comedic moments are geniunely silly and quite funny. The performances also handle the material quite well, especially Hung Kam-Bo and co-star Yuen Biao.
The film doesn't offer up action sequences quite as often as some films in the genre, but the few scenes (such as one at a local train depot) leading up to the spectacular finale (a good 10-15 minutes of back-to-back are fast, fun and choreographed superbly well. As for the visuals, the film appears to be working with a decent budget and, aside from the score and sound effects, didn't seem too terribly dated.
Overall, "Shanghai Express" manages to be a fun ride, with a good mix of laughs, a few dramatic moments and some great action scenes.
VIDEO: Once again, Genius Products gives an 80's Hong Kong film fine treatment, as after watching "Above the Law" (from the same year), "Shanghai Express" also looks surprisingly good. Sharpness and detail were not remarkable, but at least the picture appeared consistently nice and crisp throughout the show.
This presentation did show some noticable edge enhancement at times, but it wasn't terribly distracting. No artifacting was spotted and the print, while certainly not without some minor specks and marks, looked much cleaner than one would expect from a Hong Kong film of the era. Colors looked natural and clean, with no smearing or other faults.
SOUND: The film is presented here with two Dolby Digital 5.1 options - English dubbed and Cantonese. The English dubbed soundtrack is - not surprisingly - rather poorly dubbed. The Canontese soundtrack seemed okay for its age, with flat sound effects and tinny score, but clear dialogue.
EXTRAS: Commentary with Hong Kong cinema expert Bey Logan as well as new interviews with director/actor Sammo Hung, co-star Yuen Baio and Cynthia Rothrock. The interviews are newly recorded and quite informative. We also get rare deleted scenes and a trailer gallery.
Final Thoughts: Overall, "Shanghai Express" manages to be a fun ride, with a good mix of laughs, a few dramatic moments and some great action scenes. The DVD offers a very good (considering the age of the film) video presentation, fine audio and some great extra features. Recommended for fans.
The Film B