p2618059405In 2017, Sherwood Hu released part one of a diptych based on a 2003 novel by Hong Ying: Lord of Shanghai. The concurrently-shot second part, Concubine of Shanghai, was to be released a few weeks later, but Lord‘s box office flop led to a delay of more than three years, with Concubine debuting straight on VOD in late 2020. Lord of Shanghai was a clumsy, occasionally shoddy gangster epic, kept afloat by the charisma of esteemed actors like Hu Jun and Yu Nan, but hurtling through event, as if existing just to set up its epic conclusion. Concubine of Shanghai, sadly, only compounds the flaws of its opener. It picks up ten years later: Xiao Yuegui (Yu Nan), is now the powerful concubine of powerful Shanghai mobster Yu Qiyang (Rhydian Vaughan) after having loved two previous generation of Shanghai lords, Chang Lixiong (Hu Jun) and Huang Peiyu (Qin Hao). Now, she welcomes her estranged daughter Lili (Amber Kuo) back to Shanghai, but the young woman, dreaming of movie stardom, gets involved with a director (Duan Bowen) who may not be what he seems.

Ambitions are still high in Sherwood Hu’s Concubine of Shanghai, and yet they’re still betrayed by a budget that only allows for two or three outfits for any given character (Rhydian Vaughan in particular, keeps alternating between two costumes within months of narration, including an anachronistic zipper-adorned, orange horror) and that regurgitates the same eye-gouging CGI cityscapes (sometimes forward, sometimes backward), and by a dull dramatic sense that yearns for Godfather-level sweep yet can only achieve unwitting comedy (a concert scene, set to Mozart’s choral masterpiece Requiem, Lacrimosa, features no choir at all). Odd casting choices don’t help matters: 30 years-old Amber Kuo plays – not unconvincingly, to be fair – 37 years-old Yu Nan’s teenage daughter (oh, really), and Rhydian Vaughan is the most laughably wishy-washy mobster ever put on screen. And Yu Nan’s Xiao Yuegui, supposedly an iron lady of Shanghai, simply appears a preoccupied, hand-wringing, weak-willed figure, despite being played by one of the best actresses of her generation.

Long Story Short: A clumsy and cheap conclusion to a rather shoddy gangster diptych. *1/2

Leave a comment


  1. Ouch…. :-o


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: