Au Revoir Shanghai


Reviewed by: purpleprose

September 30, 2006

Rating: two

Cast:
Michael Miu as Nip Jun
Anne Heung as A Siu
Bosco Wong as Kow Jai
Shirley Yeung as Nip Man Wa
Power Chan as Sam Koo Hok Ji
Gou Hung as Koo Cheung Seng
Derek Kwok as Chun Pong

Synopsis (Spoiler Warning):
Nip Jun was the right-hand man of prominent mafia leader Koo Cheung Seng in Old Shanghai. Under the influence of his wife, who had been married to Jun by Cheung Seng, Jun decided to retire from the fighting for a normal life with his wife and daughter. Just when the family was about to leave Shanghai, Jun's wife died of a car accident. The tragedy struck Jun very hard, and although he remained in Shanghai, he successfully retired from a life of bloodshed to manage a restaurant with his daughter Man Wa, his follower Kow Jai, along with several other servants and disciples.

After several years, Jun figured out by chance that his wife's death had been caused by Koo Cheung Seng in an attempt to keep him from retirement. This discovery began a series of clashes between the two former partners, costing more lives and relationships along the way. At the end of the day, Jun killed Cheung Seng with a gunshot and finally managed to utterly leave bloodshed behind him.

In the meantime, Jun had met A Siu, the widow of a man Jun had formerly killed. Jun treated Siu generously out of guilt, and romantic attractions ensued between the two as Siu became a helper in Jun's business. When Siu realized that Jun was her husband's killer, however, she found it impossible to accept him, no matter how many incidents and years elapsed.

The story is also complicated by the character of Kow Jai, an orphan mentored by Jun. Unlike Jun, Kow Jai had chosen to enter the service of Koo Cheung Seng and his son Sam. After seeing through the corruption and cruelty of his masters' ways, Kow Jai had decided to work as a spy, secretly protecting Jun against Cheung Seng's evil intentions. His undercover work cost him dearly, and he was nearly murdered by Cheung Seng. At the end, Kwo Jai recovered from his wounds to find love with Man Wa, who had ultimately chosen him over Sam in their love triangle.

Cast Performance:

This series sports one of the worst cast performances I have seen in recent TVB history. Chemistry is totally non-existent among the actors and even the supposedly established artists offered disappointing appearances. I don't know who the director is, but he did a very bad job.

Michael Miu gives a seriously lacklustre performance in spite of his reputation as one of the "Five Tiger Generals" in TVB drama history. He fails to convince in showing emotion, whether between lovers, parent-child, or among comrades. Although the script offers him several opportunities to explore various depths of moral and emotional irony, he doesn't shine in any single one.

Anne Heung finally appears here in a role that better suits her degree of beauty and intelligence. Even so, however, she does not move audiences with her performance, and her dymanics with Michael are poor. She generally isn't a solid actress, although she probably already did her best with this series.

Bosco Wong delivers what is already the best performance among the lead actors. He plays Kow Jai, an outwardly uncouth but loyal and emotional character, quite well. His physique is also convincing as someone who could survive in the mafia. In relation to the others, he did a nice job.

Shirley Yeung is faulty as Man Wa. She does not manage to capture hearts as a lively, passionate, though sometimes foolish girl. Instead, her intentional giddiness makes Man Wa unnatural, and her crying scenes are done very poorly. She may have done better in other roles, but she is very bad here. Her only good scene is found in her parent-child embrace with Michael when Man Wa realizes that Sam had never deeply loved her. However, one hug doesn't save a role.

Power Chan, following the trend of the series, does a poor job. He does not show enough innate wickedness for his character, and his expressions are all skin-deep. Guo Hong is just fair in his static role as a "big bad guy." The character doesn't demand much acting, so it is pardonable that he doesn't act much.

Derek Kwok portrays a righteous cop in a corrupted world with a strong performance. He is the only actor in the entire series who is worth watching, for only he manages to make viewers admire and identify with his character. He stands as the best actor of the series, though I doubt if many people could endure the script enough to appreciate his performance. In a way, his performance reflects his role — he's a solid actor in a terrible cast.

Script:
The story itself has no inconsistent facts or any blatant mistakes. In fact, it is a serious attempt to write a complex plot against the popular but also complex setting of Old Shanghai. However, the entire script fails to move viewers. The stages of development are awkwardly ordered, with pivotal realizations watered-down and inconsequential details enhanced. The unengaging cast and meager production do little to save the story.

Direction, Camera, etc:
The director obviously did a bad job to make good actors act so incompetently. The sets are ugly. The camera does nothing notable, and supposedly climatic scenes are shot like any normal dialogues. It is overall a production short of TVB's caliber.

Reasons to Watch:
1) Derek Kwok did a very good job in a very good role. If you are a fan of his, you have the only reason to watch the series.
2) Hm…I can't think of any other. The theme song was considerably nice.

Reasons Not to Watch:
1) Practically the whole cast is sub-standard.
2) The background music is terrible.
3) The story ends abruptly.
4) Stupid details surface near the ending, such as Man Wa rushing to the radio station.
5) The script uses the shortcut way of ending things by postponing the final scenes to "two years later."
6) The make-up artist doesn't make anyone more attractive than he or she is.
7) The costume designer doesn't have too much fashion sense
8) I'm running out of synonymns for "bad" and "poor."

Conclusion:
If you are used to solid TVB entertainment, then stay away. This series may not be as bad as I put it, but it definitely is an inferior product for Hong Kong standards. I've already given the only two reasons to watch it. If you are a solid fan of any of the lead actors, then be sure to stay away. However, if you have nothing better to do during vacation, this series may do for a little rush entertainment. It is, after all, a complete story with real actors. Still, remember that you must not buy it. If you want to waste your money, your soon-to-be-misplaced piggy bank would provide a better option.


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