I just got a little bit more interested in Shanghai, the long-gestating flick I wrote about late last year. Reason is: Ken Watanabe has joined the cast.

As we previously reported, he’ll be working alongside Gong Li and John Cusack under the direction of 1408‘s Mikael Hafstrom. Watanabe is one of those actors I keep hoping will break out into something great. The Last Samurai probably looks like a bad move in retrospect, having done more to taint the perceived image of everyone involved than elevate it. If Shanghai doesn’t work, there’s always Cirque du Freak…the cast of which (Salma Hayek, John C. Reilly and Watanabe) is interesting enough to have me overlook Paul Weitz’s directing credit.

Meanwhile, Variety’s Shanghai synopsis is concise:
The drama, set four months prior to Dec. 7, 1941, follows an American who returns to a corrupt, Japan-occupied Shanghai to discover his friend has been killed. While trying to solve the murder, he falls in love and discovers a much larger secret that his own government is hiding.