The Last Tycoon

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Chow Yun-fat gloriously revisits his legacy of the landmark 1980s TV series The Bund with this multiple decade-spanning crime thriller, which not only lives up to the grandiose vision hinted at by its working title, Once Upon a Time in Shanghai, but also surprisingly evokes a reservoir of emotional yearning that is worthy of its presumably accidental namesake in F Scott Fitzgerald’s unfinished novel.

Loosely inspired by the real-life exploits of Du Yuesheng, the criminal kingpin of 1930s Shanghai, The Last Tycoon follows the fruit stall worker-turned gangster Cheng Daqi (played by Huang Xiaoming as a young man in the early 1910s, and Chow in the late 30s) as he rises through the ranks in a world of crooked cops and soldiers amid the full-on chaos of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

With charismatic turns by Francis Ng and Sammo Hung respectively as Cheng’s fated nemesis and mobster boss-turned-sworn brother, this classy gangster epic also finds the time to honour Cheng’s two great loves in life (Yolanda Yuan and Monica Mok) – both doomed affairs due to the hero’s underworld loyalty. Wong Jing’s best scripted effort for some time.

Edmund Lee

Dir Wong Jing, category IIB, 118 mins, opens on Thu Jan 3
 

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