The Last Tycoon is a Hong Kong Shoot Em’ Up Revenge Drama directed by Wong Jin, a director whose credentials reach as far back as The Shaw Brothers films and whose films star everyone from Jet Li to Stephen Chow. The film is set in the 1920’s, quickly landing in Shanghai, and on the teetering horizon of the Japanese Occupation of China. It’s lead character, Cheng Daqi, played respectively by Huang Xioming (Ip Man 2) as the young Daqi and Chow Yun-Fat (The Assassins) as the older Daqi (the character loosely based on the life of Du Yuesheng, a prominent triad boss in that time period.
Daqi, as a young man, falls in love with a young opera hopeful named Ye Zhiqiu (played by Once Upon A Time In Shanghai’s Yuan Quan). Daqi finds himself in trouble when his boss pulls him into a fight between himself and his wife’s lover. The wife’s lover turns out to be the a powerful police officer and Daqi is framed for murder. While waiting to be executed in prison he meets a mysterious man who saves his life and sets him free, promising to take him under his wing if he comes to see him in Shanghai. Upon returning Daqi finds that Zhiqiu and her father have moved. The love of his life is gone.
The film begins to transition between the young and old Daqi as we see him rise through the ranks of the triad in Shanghai and his future self where he is one of the most powerful men in Shanghai and his relationship with China’s secret service as they prepare for the oncoming invasion by Japan. To make matters worse, Ye Zhiqiu is in Shanghai but both she and Daqi are married, and that’s only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the drama keeping them apart.
If you’ve seen any of Chow Yun-Fat’s crime films before you’ll be sued to the extreme gunfights involved in The Last Tycoon. I’m not really a big fan of these types of fights, one or maybe two guys taking on a squadron of gun wielding goons and the smaller group manages to kill everyone. Still, I did enjoy the character progression with almost all of the characters involved in the story. Daqi was an interesting character who was tough, but smart, and grew into an even more silent, but equally as dangerous man who used his wisdom rather then just violence to control Shanghai and it’s many gangs and corrupt officials. Definitely a must see film that fits quite nicely into Yun-Fat’s legacy as an actor.
The long and short of it is that The Last Tycoon looks remarkable when it’s A game is on. The entire color gamut is well represented here. The film does have an issue with grain, especially in one scene where Daqi, his master (Sammo Hung), and his friend, now a mighty force in the secret service, Mao Zai (Francis Ng; Infernal Affairs II), are all sitting around at dinner discussing the war. The picture was drenched in grain. Still, the good outweighs the bad in this beautiful looking BD transfer.