Once Upon a Time in Shanghai ★★★½

Entertaining enough, but inferior to both 1972’s BOXER FROM SHANTUNG and 2002’s HERO, both of which tell the same story, so why bother? And especially so given that the martial arts action editing relies upon removing frames to artificially speed up the action and intensify impact. Really? There are some excellent martial artists in this film, so this is not at all necessary. Let the damned fighters show off what they’ve got!

All that said, I appreciated the casting of Chen Kuan-Tai (the original “Boxer From Shantung”), Yuen Cheung-yan and Fung Hark-on as the leaders of the Axe Fraternity (aka Axe Gang), and Sammo Hung – of course – always lends an air of quiet nobility. Plus, the 'burning of the opium' scene was very nicely handled, as was the abrupt interrupting of the Japanese “emissary” with a shout of “GET OUT OF CHINA!”. A major aspect that was not handled very well, however, was the transition of Andy On’s character from arrogant brutal butcher to good guy.