He’s an ambitious Chinese-American lawyer who finds himself a fish out of water when sent to China to close a big deal. She’s a blond single mom, an American expat comfortable in her Shanghai surroundings. When Sam (Daniel Henney) and Amanda (Eliza Coupe) meet, love is preordained, though it takes lots of cluttered melodrama and jumbled cultural commentary before their happy ending can become a reality in Shanghai Calling, writer/director Daniel Hsia’s story about Sam’s attempts to salvage his career after trouble arises with a contract regarding new cell-phone technology. Between animated graphics, split screens, and framing narration, Hsia makes his material gratingly cutesy, and his attempts to confront issues regarding China’s transformation into a global powerhouse—and the culture-clash difficulties confronted by foreigners setting up shop in its metropolises—come off as glib afterthoughts amid the bicycle chases and corporate-espionage shenanigans. Shanghai Calling eventually reveals itself to be just another stale tale about the virtue of morality over ambition, with its only compelling idea that Shanghai is “the new land of opportunity”—a notion confirmed by this Chinese production’s ability to secure the participation of established American actors Bill Paxton and Alan Ruck.
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