The Last Tycoon Blu-ray Review
Written by Michel Sabourin
Blu-ray released by Well Go USA
Directed by Jing Wong
Written by Koon-nam Lui, Jing Wong, and Manfred Wong
2012, Region A, 119 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 17th, 2013
Yun-Fat Chow as Cheng Daiqi
Xiaoming Huang as Cheng Da Qi
Sammo Hung Kam-Bo as Hong Shou Ting
Francis Ng as Máo Zài
As you watch The Last Tycoon, you find yourself saying "This all seems really familiar" a lot. Jing Wong has obviously seen a number of American gangster and war era movies and it shows. It has elements of such diverse films as Scarface, The Godfather II, Pearl Harbor (mostly a very Michael Bay-like way of blowing things up), and even a soupçon of Inglorious Basterds and Casablanca. But if you're going to copy (borrow) from other films, at least Wong picked good ones to "homage".
The basic formula for this movie is as follows:
- Step 1 - Take the true life story of a gangster who played a role in Shanghai history
- Step 2 - Change the name and add an unrequited love story
- Step 3 - Completely throw out the facts and create a fictional background to tell a different story with better plot and action sequences
Wow… Are we sure Wong and Bay aren't the same person?
And I would really like to confirm that the town they filmed this in is still standing, because they used so many explosions and destroyed so many set pieces I expected all the cars to start turning into robots. Of course, they'd be period robots, maybe even steampunk, but I digress. It's actually quite distracting how similar in theme, plot, visual cues and even score this movie is to so many other films. I swear there's a point where it sounds like the Godfather theme is being played with every fourth note missing or something just to make it dissimilar enough to avoid prosecution.
Chow Yun-fat is always a joy to watch in action, and the action, while steeped in the John Woo school of style and intermittent slow-mo for no reason, is satisfyingly staged and sufficiently bloody to appease Yun-fat's core audiences. The rest of the performances don't quite match his effluence, but they serve the story well. And the set pieces are large and gorgeously shot. The Last Tycoon is a well-made film even if it is cobbled together from pieces of other well-made films. If you are a fan of Asian action movies and don't mind historical inaccuracies and overblown drama, this is your movie. Otherwise, it's not a bad watch, but I wouldn't go out of my way to see it.
Video and Audio:
The video mix can tend to run a little dark in some places, but the 16:9 widescreen presentation is great for the expansive war sequences. The movie is drizzled with pops of vibrant colors in the scenes from the latter years to offset the slightly grey tone of Cheng Daqi's rise to power.
The 5.1 HD Surround Sound services the war sequences beautifully and the sound mix seemed fine.
The only real special feature is a behind-the-scenes featurette that is more sizzle reel than informative production notes.