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Film / Shanghai Grand

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Hui Man-keung (Leslie Cheung)and Ding-lik (Andy Lau)

Shanghai Grand is a 1996 gangster drama film starring Leslie Cheung and Andy Lau. The movie is a loose adaptation of the 1980 Hong Kong TVB drama series, The Bund, previously starring Chow Yun-fat with Leslie Cheung replacing Chow's role.

Set in Shanghai during the early 1930s / Republican era, the city is a haven for triads and gangsters before its occupation by the Japanese in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Hui Man-keung (Cheung), sole survivor of a triad massacre on the seas who escaped by jumping from his ship, finds himself in the Bund of Shanghai, where he befriends Ding-Lik (Andy Lau), a small-time crook and gangster with big dreams of his own. Realizing the only way they can make it big is through joining the triads, both men proceed to kill their way upwards to power, with Man-keung falling for his boss' daughter, Ching-Ching, and trying to prove his worth to his superior as a successor. But, power comes at a price for both men.

Shanghai Tropes:

  • Adaptational Wimp: Man-keung gets a lot less action scenes and shootouts compared to his predecessor, played by Chow Yun-fat, and doesn’t get into much physical fight scenes either. Given how the film is attempting to cram multiple episodes’ worth of events into a single movie, its rather justified.
  • Arch-Enemy: Averted, despite Man-keung swearing vengeance after witnessing Madam Yiu slaughtering more than 20 of his friends, ultimately he never gets to confront her, face-to-face. Madam Yiu is ultimately killed by Man-keung's friend, Ding-lik, and Man-keung never finds out what happened to his sworn enemy for the rest of the film.
  • Attack Animal: Madam Yiu’s pet is a giant boa constrictor which she keeps in her bedroom. She also attempts to have her enemies and prisoners ( such as Ding-lik) Fed to the Beast.
  • Badass in a Nice Suit: Ding-lik and Man-keung.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Between Man-keung and Ching Ching.
  • Cacophony Cover Up: The Mexican Standoff and final shootout between Ding-lik and Man-keung, culminating in Ding-lik shooting Man-keung dead, takes place at the stroke of midnight in a new year countdown, where the fireworks drowns out the gunshots. Similarly, later on as Ding-lik gets assassinated by machine-gun wielding triads intending to double cross him, it coincides with the crowd outside going through a New Year celebration.
  • Chained to a Bed: Ding-lik finds himself waking up like this in Madam Yiu’s bedroom, with her pet boa about to devour him as she gleefully watches. But he escapes by turning the boa back against her.
  • Compressed Adaptation: The movie attempts to condense a 25-episode TV series into around two hours. Naturally, a lot of additional stuff had to be Adapted Out.
  • Casting Gag: The original Hui Man-keung is played by Chow Yun-fat. Here, Hui Man-keung is played by Leslie Cheung, Chow’s co-star from the A Better Tomorrow films.
  • Destination Defenestration: The restaurant confrontation ends with Ding-lik and Man-keung flinging the rival triad boss out of a tall window.
  • Diner Brawl: The meeting between Man-keung and Ding-lik and a rival triad boss ends up becoming a full-blown brawl, which culminates in the duo eventually shoving the boss through a third-storey window and sending him falling to his death.
  • Disc-One Final Boss: Madam Yiu is set up to be a massive threat for the first half of the movie, but she gets killed in the bedroom scene and the movie still goes on for another hour or so.
  • Downer Ending: Both Ding-lik and Men-keung went from Rags to Riches to becoming the number one enemy of every single mobster in Shanghai, and they went from Fire-Forged Friends to enemies destined to kill each other. And while Ding-lik manage to kill Man-keung in their final shootout, he himself ends up getting shot by multiple assassins moments later.
  • Eye Scream: During a confrontation scene with rival triads, Ding-Lik subdues two of them while holding a plank with nails on its surface, by using the pointed side to whack them in the face. Both triads show up later with blood all over their faces and very likely missing an eye.
    • Ding-lik does this again when about to be devoured by Madam Yiu's pet boa, by stabbing the boa's eye.
  • Feather Boa Constrictor: How Madam Yiu is depicted with her pet boa in her bedroom scene.
  • Fighting the Lancer: Ding-lik is The Lancer to Man-keung, but ultimately they end up enemies trying to kill each other in the finale.
  • Fingore: In the restaurant confrontation, Ding-lik lose a pinky to a mobster's axe.
  • Friends Turned Romantic Rivals: The two main heroes, Man-Keung and Ding-lik, were small-time hooligans who made it big in the Shanghai underworld and killed their way to the top. But unfortunately both of them fall for Fung Qing-qing, the daughter of their boss, and the subsequent Love Triangle ends up going horribly wrong for both men.
  • Fur and Loathing: The sinister Dragon Lady Madam Yiu is frequently shown wearing lavish furs and coats.
  • Gangland Drive-By: How Ding-lik gets offed in the final scene.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Madam Yiu knocks out Ding-lik with a vodka bottle while capturing him alive.
  • Ground by Gears: One of the triads on the ship in the opening scene gets squashed between gears and ripped into half from the waist while trying to pursue Man-keung.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Madam Yiu tries to feed Ding-lik to her pet boa, but Ding-lik, grabbing a nearby lampshade, breaks it against the boa's face, stabbing the animal's eye before shoving the bulb down its throat. Thrashing about furiously, the boa ends up clinging onto a shocked Madam Yiu, who then proceeds to constrict around her and devour her instead.
  • Hostile Weather: The movie begins with a ship full of refugees, among them Man-keung, driving through the storm and raging seas heading towards Shanghai harbor. Unfortunately for them, the triads intend to have the refugees killed and disposed in the waters, hoping for the storm to erase whatever evidence of their killings.
  • It Began with a Twist of Fate: Man-keung starts off as the Sole Survivor of a refugee ship massacre by jumping off the bow and swimming his way to the docks of Shanghai.
  • Karmic Death: Madam Yiu, who delights in torturing her captives and feeding her victims to her boa, ends up having the boa devouring her instead.
  • Man Bites Man: Madam Yiu kills a prisoner on the refugee ship at the start of the film by chewing his throat out in a disturbingly graphic way. And then gleefully licks the blood from the corner of her mouth with a sadistic smile on her face.
  • New Year Has Come: The final scene of the movie takes place on New Year 1934. Man-keong and Ding-lik only lives long enough to savor the first few minutes after 12 of the New Year.
  • Outside Ride: Ding-lik during a chase scene ends up clinging to the side of an out-of-control vehicle.
  • The Pen Is Mightier: An unarmed Man-keung managed to kill a henchman guarding him by stabbing the henchman's neck with a pen.
  • Pragmatic Adaptation: Half of the important themes and messages of bonding between triads from the original series gets left out, due to the shortened running time. Adaptation Distillation is just putting it mildly...
  • Rule of Pool: Boss Fung had a massive swimming pool outside his mansion. In the scene where Man-keung attempts to assassinate him before being interrupted by bodyguards, the fight culminates with Man-keung tackling Fung outside into the swimming pool, and stabbing him repeatedly while both men are in the water.
  • Shower Scene: One scene had Man-keung and Ching Ching taking their shower together. Ding-lik walks into them without knocking, intending to surprise his girlfriend, and is shocked to see his best friend and his girlfriend all wet together.
  • Snakes Are Sinister: Why else would Madam Yiu’s pet and Attack Animal be a boa?
  • The Triads and the Tongs
  • Time Passes Montage: One depicting Man-keung and Ding-lik going from smalltime crooks to triad hitmen and professional killers, including gangland killings, beating up rival mobs, and taking over much of Shanghai in the process.
  • Wake Up Fighting: Ding-lik discovers Man-keung washed ashore on the coast of Shanghai, and tries to wake him up. Man-keung, still having memories of the previous night’s massacre, jolts up and delivers a punch on Ding-lik, and then falls back unconscious.
  • We Used to Be Friends: Ding-lik and Man-keung. The power struggle between gangsters is real…