Shadow of China
Directed by Mitsuo Yanagimachi. Starring John Lone, Vivian Wu, Sammi Davis, Koichi Sato. (1990)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 14, 1991
The film begins on the Chinese mainland in 1976 with the flight of Red Guard cadres Wu Chang (Lone) and Moo-Ling (Wu) following the collapse of the Cultural Revolution. We see the excesses of the revolution as they cross over into Hong Kong. Here they become separated when Moo-Ling is captured by the border police and Wu Chang escapes into the darkness. Cut to 1989. Wu Chang has transformed himself into Henry Wong, a wealthy capitalist entrepreneur. From his offices high atop a Hong Kong skyscraper he conducts his voracious business dealings. His appetite also extends to his girlfriend Katharine (Davis), a luciously decadent Englishwoman who slinks through the whole movie as though the movie's she's acting in is titled Emanuelle in Hong Kong. When we pick up the story, Wong is on the verge of purchasing the colony's primary newspaper, positioning himself to become a major voice in the island's coming absorption into mainland China and thereby reintegrate himself into his homeland. His shrewd and savvy entrepreneurial facade is an almost unrecognizable manifestation of his former self. Business is going gangbusters when unexpectedly he discovers Moo-Ling who has established a career for herself as a small-time cabaret singer. She's hooked up with a Japanese journalist who's trying to track down a rumor about a Japanese orphan who somehow became a leading member of the Red Guard. Guess who? So melodrama begins to mix with political intrigue and it's all embedded in the bustling backdrop of contemporary Hong Kong. Shadow of China is likely to be of most interest to those who are curious about Hong Kong's imminent re-absorption into mainland China. As a glimpse of modern Hong Kong, the film is fascinating. With its Japanese director and international cast, the film is a curious conglomeration of melodrama and political intrigue that's as rich and undefined as the future of the colony itself.