Shanghai Surprise (1986) – Review

1/2 Star

Witnessing a great actor giving a bad performance in an awful movie is informative and fascinating. At Close Range, The Falcon and the Snowman, Carlito’s Way, are all clear examples of the immense talent Sean Penn possesses. So to see Shanghai Suprise is to behold an exquisite actor who is left stranded in an out-right bad movie. The voyeuristic aspect of watching Penn acting alongside (his then-wife) Madona is the film’s main selling point. Fans of either star will find it extremely challenging to make it through the film’s 96 minutes running time.

The strangest thing about Shanghai Suprise is that it should have been made a decade ago, with Ryan O’Neil and Barbara Streisand. It might have worked. In its current incarnation, nothing works at all.

Shanghai Suprise‘s tone and style are inspired by 1940’s adventure movies. The kind with the establishing shots of sweeping visits but mostly filmed on the interior sets of MGM’s backlot in Hollywood. How does this script attract the attention of Sean Penn and Madonna? Forget Gigli. Shanghai Suprise is, arguably, the worst ‘real-life couple’ movie of all time.

Director: Jim Goddard
Stars: Sean Penn, Madonna, Paul Freeman

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