This square peg-in-a-round-hole romance takes a banana and mixes in an egg and produces a fluffy little well-rounded confection. Call it a rom-com. Call it "about time that the double A guy gets the blonde girl. Writer/director Daniel Hsia called the movie "Shanghai Calling." The movie opens 15 February 2013 at the Pasadena Playhouse 7.
Hsia gets a lot of things right. You might gripe a bit because this is another case of a hapa (part Asian ethnic) actor taking the role that seems to be meant for a full Asian. We've already had Dean Cain, Keanu Reeves and Russell Wong. The lead here, Daniel Henney, was born in Michigan to a Korean adoptee mother and an Irish-American father. He's worked as a model and played a surgeon in the hit Korean TV drama "My Name is Kim Sam Soon." Henney is tall, dark and handsome and acts well enough in this role.
In the movie, he plays, Sam Chao, an ambitious ABC (that's American-born Chinese) who is a land shark hoping to make partner in an international law firm. The partners decide to send him to Shanghai because he at least looks Chinese, but Sam doesn't speak Chinese (and in this case, he'd have to speak either Mandarin or Shanghai dialect) and is unfamiliar with the business practices. He's both an arrogant American and a ego-driven litigator which means he's lacking on the person-to-person working relationship skill. He threatens lawsuit when perhaps a simple "please" might do or even when the best thing to do is leave the situation.
His firm is high profile enough to provide him with a beautiful blonde relocation specialist, Amanda Wilson (Eliza Coupe), who is as white as her name suggests, but she's the egg here. She may be white on the outside, but she understand Shanghai better then Sam, if he'd only listen.
That's not to far fetched a situation. My first trip to Japan had me paired with a Caucasian American as my guide. Sometimes, the only thing you really know about your ancestors' culture is the food. That's Sam all over.
Sam is working for Marcus Groff (Alan Ruck) who has found a revolutionary cell phone technology. Marcus has a signed contract, but suddenly knock-offs using the technology are appearing everywhere and Sam must find out how to stop the production and sale of these cell phones in a country where he doesn't speak the language and barely understand the government.
Sam also meets the unofficial mayor of the American ex-pats, entrepreneur Donald Cafferty (Bill Paxton) and the mysterious journalist with all the answers, Awesome Wang (Geng Le). While Sam is rubbing Americans the wrong way with his bull-in-the-china-shop demeanor, he's also slighting the locals at his company's satellite office.
This lawyers in love rom-com doesn't take itself too seriously and you can probably see the ending coming, but the journey is sweet, but not too saccharine. Henney and Coupe have an easy-going chemistry.
Hsia won Best New Directo at the 2012 Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival and Daniel Henney won Best Actor at the 2012 Newport Beach Film Festival.
"Shanghai Calling" is a slight, but winning romance that opens 15 February 2013 at the Pasadena Playhouse 7. Writer/director Daniel Hsia and the director of photography Armando Salas will be on hand for a Q&A after the 7:10 p.m. screening on Friday (15 February 2013).