Danny Stratton (Orlando Bloom) runs his own high security transportation business in Shanghai and was doing very well until his team were entrusted to look after the priceless Van Gogh painting Sunflowers. He was sitting in the back of the armoured truck with the artwork when he was called by his girlfriend Ling (Lynn Hung) on the phone; he was about to inform her he had important news for her when suddenly there was an explosion and the vehicle was sent flying. Dazed, Danny was able to make out a figure enter the compartment and steal the painting, and from that point to this, a year later, his S.M.A.R.T. security line has seen its name become mud. What to do now?
We jump a year later after that prologue to catch up with our hero, and find him running a scam where he pretends to beat up two of his team members, Mach Ren (Simon Yam) and J. Jae (Hannah Quinlivan), in return for cash from the bar customers they dupe. How the mighty have fallen, and you might have been able to say the same for Bloom, well into ageing geezer mode at this stage in his career with the Cockney accent to match, but seeing this international co-production go straight to DVD and streaming in his native United Kingdom was something of a comedown from the blockbusters he had been starring in during the previous decade of his career, albeit in ensembles.
You could see the thinking behind taking this part, as the Chinese market for movies was opening up substantially in the most populous nation on Earth and the West was capitalising on this, mostly with blockbusters (or attempts at them), but also with smaller, mid-budget efforts with an imported star. Maximise the profits would appear to be the thinking, there was a lot of money to be made, but that only counted when the audiences went to see the projects in the first place, and by all accounts the Chinese were less than interested in the antics of Mr Bloom, even with the presence of the prolific Mr Yam backing him up. It might have been because Yam's role was somewhat inconsequential.
The other Asian actors did not have the same fanbase as him, another reason that The Shanghai Job, or S.M.A.R.T. Chase as it was also known, failed to catch on. All that said, it was easy to be critical of this and its air of second hand thrills with not exactly electrifying elements, but there was a place for mid-range action flicks, and in truth there was nothing egregiously amiss here, it was your basic caper movie of a sort that had been of interest since the nineteen-sixties and stuck to that tradition with a tone that was bright enough, and updated various aspects to a more modern sensibility. Mostly by use of drone technology, not only to capture shots of Shanghai from the sky for a spot of visual panache, but also to become a part of the storyline as the team includes a whizz kid (Wu Lei) who knows about these things.
Wu seemed to be getting a big build-up to potential stardom here, but he would have to look elsewhere in his filmography for that kind of profile, as Bloom appeared to be the main man as far as the exposure went, though his fight scenes were afflicted with fast cutting syndrome which suggested he was less adept at the martial arts (or whatever he called what he was doing) than some of his co-stars: basically hand to hand combat was reduced to one shot, one punch (or kick. Or headbutt). The narrative was simple enough, easy to follow and nothing taxing: Danny had to get the painting back, and got involved with a corporation who want him to transport a priceless vase (yes, it was a bit Jason Statham in places), but also may have some connection to the theft of the Van Gogh. The Shanghai Job, which was not as much fun as The Italian Job (Michael Caine version, please), burbled away pleasantly enough, slickly produced, eventful and inoffensive. Sometimes that's just what you want. Music by Mark Kilian.
[The Signature DVD has no extras, but the film itself looks and sounds fine.]