British-Chinese action thriller starring Orlando Bloom, Leo Wu, Simon Yam, Hannah Quinlivan and Lynn Hung, and directed by Charles Martin. Originally released as S.M.A.R.T. Chase.
“Lord of the Rings” and “Pirates of the Caribbean” star Orlando Bloom does his best Jason Statham impression as “Danny Stratton”, a private security expert.
Popular Chinese actor Leo Wu Lei stars as tech expert and drone pilot “Ding Dong Tang”. Starting as a child actor, Leo Wu has grown in popularity in China to become known as “Nation’s Little Brother”. He will next be seen in acclaimed director Zhang Yimou’s (Hero; House of Flying Daggers; Curse of the Golden Flower) historical epic “Shadow”, and as the lead in the highly anticipated US$100m fantasy epic “Asura”.
One of Asia’s most popular and acclaimed actors, Simon Yam stars as “Mach Ren”, the older experienced member of Stratton’s team. In a long and varied career, Yam has appeared in hit films such as Chow Yun Fat’s “Full Contact”, the first three instalments of the Young and Dangerous film series, “Naked Killer”, “SPL: Sha Po Lang”, “SPL 2: A Time for Consequences”, “Election” (1 & 2), Ip Man 1 & 2 and “Bodyguards and Assassins”.
Taiwanese actress and model Hannah Quinlivan plays feisty crew member “J. Jae Anh”. Quinlivan is married to the hugely popular actor and singer Jay Chou (“Initial D”; “Curse of the Golden Flower”; “Kung Fu Dunk”; “The Green Hornet”; “True Legend”; “Now You See Me 2”), with whom she has two children. Lynn Hung plays Stratton’s ex-girlfriend “Ling Mo”. The popular Chinese model and actress is best known for her acclaimed performances as Ip Man’s wife “Cheung Wing Sing” in the Donnie Yen series of films. The villainess of the piece is “Tara” played by Liang Jing.
Action star and former Shaolin Monk, Xing Yu (aka Shi Yan Neng) brings his considerable skill set to the table as menacing henchman “Long Fei”. Xing Yu has delivered some of the best Hong Kong martial arts action of recent times with performances in films such as “Kung Fu Hustle”, “Flash Point”, “Shaolin”, “The Wrath of Vajra”, “Kung Fu Killer” and “Call of Heroes”.
Danny Stratton runs the Security Management Action Recovery Team, known as S.M.A.R.T. Considered the best in the business Stratton is ambushed and has the valuable Van Gogh painting he is transporting snatched from him.
A year later, with his reputation in tatters Stratton and his team are offered a shot at redemption when they are tasked with safely escorting the priceless Zodiac Vase to the airport. However, the same gang that stole the Van Gogh hijack the team in an attempt to steal the vase. Using the valuable cargo as bait, and with Stratton’s ex-girlfriend Ling Mo’s life in danger, the S.M.A.R.T. team will need all their wits and resources to recover the stolen antiques, save Ling Mo, and restore their reputation.
This is a tough ask for Orlando Bloom. He may have swashbuckled as a pirate and battled orcs in Middle Earth, but he is front and centre here in a Chinese action film facing off against the likes of Xing Yu.
Perhaps wisely, the action mainly consists of fast moving chase scenes. The stunt work is impressive with some spectacular car smashes and flips. Bloom has a particularly exhilarating motorcycle pursuit through the old suburbs of Shanghai.
When Bloom is required to go hand-to-hand, the choreography for our hero is kept grounded with low kicks and thudding punches. Hong Kong star Simon Yam does well in the action scenes and it’s good to see him frequently get involved in the fisticuffs. Xing Yu is as tough as you would imagine, if somewhat under-utilised for a star of his talents.
Bloom has a nice, almost John Wick-like, fight in a nightclub as he attempts to escape the villain’s lair. He impressively and efficiently lays waste to Tara’s goons in lots of long single take sequences showing crisp blocks, counter-strikes and chin na (seizing and trapping) techniques. As the end credits roll there are some amusing outtakes, Jackie Chan-style!
Despite having a rather startling bleached blonde hairdo (it’s even more unsettling than Max Zhang Jin’s in The Brink!), and slightly dodgy East-London-via-Australia accent, Orlando Bloom certainly demonstrates the capacity to be a hard-hitting action hero, especially in the nightclub sequence. Sadly, the Cockney wide-boy character just doesn’t suit him. If he can develop the action skills he performs here and just be himself, he has the potential to forge a new career path as a Transporter-like or even Agent 47 action actor.
Simon Yam, one of Hong Kong’s coolest actors, somehow manages to retain that cool even though he speed-mumbles his way through the English dialogue. In the short appearances he makes, Xing Yu is appropriately menacing in his role as the bad guy. It invoked memories of classic Yuen Wah and Dick Wei villainous roles. Long may THAT continue! Hannah Quinlivan is functional in her role and gets in on some of the fighting action. Liang Jing is cold as ice as the villain. It’s a shame she didn’t get some meatier dialogue to chew up her scenes with.
There is some beautiful drone photography of the famous neon-bathed architecture of Shanghai’s metropolis and everything is backed by a pumping techno soundtrack. It comes as no surprise that director Charles Martin’s background is in British television serials. This feels a little like a pilot movie for a television series like Hustle or Hooten and the Lady. Clichéd and daft, slick yet vacuous, but knowing and fun. It’s funny, but if I had paid to see this on the big screen, I would have been disappointed. But if this was developed into a weekly television serial about the adventures of S.M.A.R.T., I would probably give it a go.
Effectively a 90-minute chase sequence through the beautiful Shanghai locations, switch off your brain, and be amazed at Orlando Bloom’s transformation from pretty-boy actor to ass-kicking action star!
“The Shanghai Job” is now available on VOD and DVD courtesy of Signature Entertainment. Seen the movie, what did you think, could Orlando bloom into an action star? Let us know below, join in the conversation on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. (Feel free to check out our other fu-packed reviews!)
- “The Shanghai Job” originally went by the title of “S.M.A.R.T. Chase: Fire & Earth”.
- This is director Charles Martin’s feature film debut. He has previously directed episodes of The Sarah Jane Adventures, Skins, Being Human and Wallander for British television.
- In September 2016, Orlando Bloom shared a video on Instagram of him training with Xing Yu in preparation for his role as Danny Stratton.
- This film marks the first time Orlando Bloom has worked in China.