Starring Sean Penn, Madonna, Paul Freeman, Richard Griffiths, Philip Sayer, Victor Wong
Miscast. Miscast. Miscast.
A pair of missionaries in China-one, a beautiful, if stuck up blonde named Gloria Tatlock (Madonna)-enlist the help of a sleazy expatriate, Glendon Wasey (Penn), to track down a haul of opium that could help them nurse their suffering patients. Shanghai Surprise isn’t as complete a disaster as contemporary critics deemed it. It has an engaging setting, some exotic appeal, and a couple of decent songs by George Harrison, but it is bad. Mainly, because Madonna is so bad. I’m not particularly tough on actors. I love Bloodsport and Red Sonja for example. But romantic comedies depend so much on chemistry and strong lead characters. The writing perhaps deserves some blame but there’s no getting past how badly out of her element Madonna is. I don’t buy her as a prim missionary and she’s not a good enough actress to sell it.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-