January 3, 2011 0 By Fans
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Still of Li Gong and John Cusack in ShanghaiStill of Li Gong in Shanghai


A '40s period piece which revolves around an American expat who returns to Shanghai in the months before Pearl Harbor due to the death of his friend.

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6.5/10 (3,263 voted)

Mikael Håfström

Stars: John Cusack, Li Gong, Yun-Fat Chow

An American man returns to a corrupt, Japanese-occupied Shanghai four months before Pearl Harbor and discovers his friend has been killed. While he unravels the mysteries of the death, he falls in love and discovers a much larger secret that his own government is hiding.


John Cusack

Paul Soames

Li Gong

Anna Lan-Ting

(as Gong Li)

Yun-Fat Chow

Anthony Lan-Ting

(as Chow Yun-Fat)

David Morse

Richard Astor

Ken Watanabe


Franka Potente


Jeffrey Dean Morgan


Hugh Bonneville

Ben Sanger

Yuan On


Hon Ping Tang


Benedict Wong

Juso Kita

Christopher Buchholz


Ronan Vibert


Nicholas Rowe


Michael Culkin


In a world filled with secrets, solving a mystery can be murder.


Official Website:
Official site [Japan] |

Release Date: 3 Jan 2011

Filming Locations: Bangkok, Thailand

Box Office Details

Budget: $50,000,000


Gross: $132,573
(18 July 2010)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


The project was set to roll early 2008 in China but the authorities blocked the shoot just weeks before production was set to begin. China's exit meant walking away from sets that had been built at a cost of $3 million. Weinstein Co. shifted the shoot to London and Thailand, where sets have been built re-creating Shanghai's old colonial architecture.


Paul Soames:
The heart is never neutral.

User Review

An almost great film, but more importantly an excellent homage/throwback to film-noir.

Rating: 7/10

They sure don't make films like these anymore. Back in the 1930's –
1950's the cinemas were filled with reels of gangster/detective films
shot in black and white. The days of classic films such as "Double
Indemnity", "Notorious", "The Maltese Falcon" and "Touch Of Evil" were
long gone. In it's place we have, today, overbudgeted, overblown films
that causes today's youthful audiences to have Attention Deficit
Disorder and be bored at any film that is not filled with explosions
every two milliseconds. In between then and now we had many homages to
film-noir that stand out on their own. Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" for
instance is the best "neo-noir" film ever made and many films directed
by Michael Mann also have strong noirish influences. "Shanghai", while
not excellent, manages to become a good, neat little thriller on its
own right, but properly includes the classic noirish themes of the 40's
– 50's that gave the classic films the reputation they have now.

Granted, the script by Hossein Amini has mostly nothing new apart from
the noirish elements from those other classic noir films. It's an old-
fashioned American murder mystery, but set in the Far East. Familiar
plot revelations take place as our hero weaves his way through a web of
lies, deceit/deception, betrayal, romance, murder, corruption, and in
this film's case, war. What stood out in the film's screenplay is the
number of languages used in the film: English, Japanese and Chinese,
although I wished the latter two were featured more prominently than
they were in the final film. And I have to admit, although unoriginal,
the twists in the movie are intriguing and kept my attention.

The international actors are great and fit into their roles like
tailor- made suits. John Cusack as the protagonist gives off his
Bogie-like character a subtle and calm performance that is also
charming. Gong Li, beautiful as ever, is the main dame of the film and
she has that sultry, mysterious look in her eyes that you can't take
your eyes off of her. Chow Yun-Fat, finally in a role worth watching
him in, is the mob boss who may or may not be on Cusack's character's
side, as he adapts an extremely charming yet secretive personality
under that face of his. And Ken Watanabe has that sinister vibe in him
as the film's primary antagonist, though he exudes a certain class to
his villainous character. Fine supporting characters played by
interesting actors such as David Morse, Rinko Kikuchi, Jeffrey Dean
Morgan and Franka Potente round up the very distinguished and
diversified cast.

Production value and cinematography are top-notch as they transport you
back in time to the glamor and grit of pre-occupied Shanghai, with its
well-designed and furbished sets/locations filled with plenty of real
extras instead of CG ones for a nice change, and crisp, properly
lighted scenes with big and wide camera angles so to appreciate the
settings even more. Klaus Badelt scores the film with a proper
suspenseful element to it making it feel more at home with the noirish
crowd without feeling to overdone, thus also making it easier to evoke
emotions in the audience, especially to those who are new to the noir
genre. Thanks to Mikael Håfström for his focused direction in bringing
the best out of the actors.

This is, more importantly, a throwback to the noirish days of old. This
film would be a great starting point for those new to noir, and people
who like thrillers should give this nostalgic time capsule a chance.

Entertainment value: 9/10

Overall: 7/10