Chow Yun-Fat stars in this sweeping wartime thriller from director Wong Jing. Beautifully filmed and constantly moving forward with a kinetic energy, the lavish and romantic story set in Shanghai from 1914 to the 1940s tells of the rise of Cheng Daqi (Fat) who leaves his small town after being framed for murder and slowly rises to the top of the city’s criminal underworld. But war looms on the horizon and the Japanese are plotting an invasion while some of the Chinese in power are plotting against their own, in league with the Japanese. As the invasion comes closer, Cheng’s loyalties will be tested, especially when his romantic love from his past, now a famous opera singer, Zhiqiu (Yuan Quan) re-enters his life and he must both use her to gain valuable knowledge her husband, a Chinese intelligence officer, possess, and assess his feelings for her and his wife, while deciding which side he will choose in the upcoming war.
Chow Yun-Fat is brilliant as the benevolent, idealistic gangster and Wong’s direction is a thing of pure beauty, a visual delight that never languishes too long on the melodrama nor does it focus too much on the action. It is a fine balance between the two, constantly moving the story forward, through set pieces in the present and numerous flashbacks to Daqi’s past. The swelling orchestral music mixed with a more traditional Chinese sound conveys the emotional points more vividly as well, so that by the time we reach the most action-intensive point in the film, the Japanese bombing of Shanghai, we are really deeply, emotionally involved in this vivid world that Wong, Chow, et. al. Have so giftedly crafted.
Shot in high definition on the Arri Alexa and Red Epic cameras, The Last Tycoon comes to Blu-ray looking very film-like despite its source. There’s a good amount of contrast and the video noise present in the image looks natural and organic. Some softness is present overall, but there’s still strong amounts of detail in close-ups and nuanced shadow detail.
The Mandarin DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/24-bit) soundtrack is pure reference, with balanced sound between the front and surrounds, strong sense of atmosphere and clean dialogue. The dynamic range is magnificently wide capturing the quietest sounds to the loudest bomb blasts during the rousing scene of the Japanese bombing of Shanghai. Meanwhile, the beautiful score is balanced wonderfully into the mix and the strings play with fantastic amount of air and clear highs that ring out smoothly.
There’s nothing here really worth sitting through, unfortunately.
- Making of (1.78:1; 1080p/24; 00:11:16)
- Trailer (2.35:1; 1080p/24)
The Definitive Word
The Last Tycoon is a lavishly filmed, energetic and sweepingly romantic wartime thriller that will have you spellbound by its visuals, its emotional ride, and its twists. This one is an A+ all around, given the quality of the acting, the fine production, and the presentation on Blu-ray from Well Go USA Entertainment.