Once Upon a Time in Shanghai (上海滩马永贞) aka Fierce Battle is a action martial arts film from Hong Kong released on 23 May 2013.

One Upon A Time in Shanghai


Ma Yong Zhen travels to Shanghai from Shangdong to find work and become rich. However, he is caught between facing local gangs and the Japanese who are occupying the region.


Philip Ng (伍允龙) as Ma Yong Zhen
He is an American Hong Kong born actor, martial artist and action choreographer. He runs the Ng Family Chinese Martial Arts Association in Chicago. We’ve seen him in a number of productions including The Righteous Fists.

Andy On (安志傑 ) as Long Qi
He is an American Hong Kong actor and martial artist based in Rhode Island USA. He has also had a hand at singing. We’ve seen him in other productions such as Ever Night Season Two and Sword Snow Stride.

Sammo (洪金寶) as Master Tie
Well, Sammo needs no introduction and we’ve seen him in many productions.


The story is pretty simple; bloke moves to Shanghai to become rich, faces gangs and the Japanese, makes friends, possible girlfriend. I believe the story is there to lead into the action which is the main bread and butter of the movie.

The look and feel of the movie is done in an artistic kind of way. The colour grading is almost black and white with colours toned down. The cinematography is slightly different in parts. This wasn’t the case throughout the entire movie, just in parts.

A day after I watched the movie I have forgotten what the music sounds like, so I am guessing it wasn’t very prominent.

I wasn’t expecting Sammo or Andy On to appear in the movie, I followed the trail to find out what Philip Ng had done before. So the cast was a pleasant surprise.

Philip and Andy were very cute together at points, it was good to see the on-screen relationship develop. I expect they are good friends in real life and the film was more like “having fun with mates”, at least that came across when I was watching it.

So, the martial arts was prominent in the movie and it was quite well done. However, I have to say that it did look a little bit slapstick, unintentionally, as some of those scenes which were sped up. I suspect when they filmed those sequences they did them slowly or at normal speed as some of them were quite intricate. There appeared to be some CGI embedded into the martial arts when objects were kicked out of the way.

There was one scene towards the end and we thought “Philip looks like he is emulating or honouring Bruce Lee”


This was a really cool movie, storyline was simple, but watch it if you enjoy martial arts. I will give it a 4.5/5.

Where To Watch

The movie is currently on Tubi, available in the US and Canada, and available on DVD.