Action, Comedy, Martial Arts, Western

Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights (2000 / 2003)

Comments Off on Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights (2000 / 2003) 28 July 2013

shanghai

Studio: Touchstone

Theatrical Release: May 26, 2000 / February 7, 2003

Blu Ray Release: May 7, 2013

Director(s): Tom Dey / David Dobkin

PG-13

Review by James Klein

After the success of Rush Hour and all of his imported Hong Kong films, Jackie Chan was a hot priority going into the 2000’s. Owen Wilson at the time was an up and coming actor who seemed to be the only highlight in such big Hollywood films as Armageddon and The Haunting. With a first time director and two writers who mostly worked in television, it’s a bit of a surprise that Shanghai Noon came out so funny and entertaining. While the film did well at the box office, it wasn’t such a big success until video, prompting a sequel that also did well. Touchstone Pictures did the right thing by releasing both films as a double feature on blu ray, chock-full of special features.

Shanghai Noon, the better of the two sequels, is the story of Chon Wang, a Chinese servant who travels to America with his uncle in search for their princess (Lucy Liu) who has been kidnapped. While Chon and his uncle are traveling by train, a bunch of bandits hijack the train lead by Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) who isn’t like the other bandits in that he won’t steal from women and refuses to hurt anyone. When one of the bandits suddenly kills Chon’s uncle as well as leaving Roy on his own, the two men eventually team up together to help Chon find the kidnapped princess. Unbeknownst to them, a corrupt sheriff (Xander Berkeley) is also in cahoots with the men who kidnapped the princess and he soon becomes Roy’s arch enemy as the two share a rival.

While the screenplay is rather basic, the movie is a lot of fun thanks to the main leads. While I personally couldn’t stand the Rush Hour films, Shanghai Noon‘s duo of Wilson and Chan is perfect. Both men are very funny and carry the movie despite some of the bad jokes and predictable plot. Director Tom Dey also knew that the best kind of Chan action scenes are the ones where you let Jackie Chan do what he does best. The Rush Hour films had some awful editing during the fight scenes and Chan wasn’t allowed to do as many stunts. Here, we see in various long shots all of the martial arts and action sequences that we have come to love in Jackie’s movies. Some of the fight sequences such as when he fights Mohawk Indians and one where he uses a horseshoe as a weapon, could go up against his best historic fight sequences in his previous films. Chan’s Buster Keaton blend of action and comedy works perfectly in a western and Owen Wilson’s aw-shucks charm also plays off well with Chan. It’s apparent both men loved making this film and were having a ball.

The sequel, Shanghai Knights, is also pretty good but does fall short of the original film. A Chinese rebel and a British officer of the Royal army kill Chon’s father because he is the keeper of the Emperor’s jewel that only certain people can even set their eyes on. Chon, now a sheriff in a small town, hears of his father’s death as his hot tempered sister is in search for the killers. Chon travels to New York to find Roy who had invested both of their gold that they received from the first film. Roy, now a waiter, has spent all of the money but out of guilt vows to help Chon find the killers, who have now traveled to London. While the story starts off interesting, the film starts to drag due to the lame jokes, un-interesting villains and fight sequences that tend to get a bit too comedic and silly. However, the two main leads work so well with one another and the film is so fast paced, one can’t help but to have some fun with it.

My biggest complaint of the Shanghai movies is the music. Why do both directors find it necessary to include music by ZZ Top, Kid Rock, The Who and The Zombies just to name a few? It doesn’t fit in at all with the just of the tone that these films have established and seems completely un-necessary. I also was getting a bit bored with all the movie/history jokes that both films throw at the viewer. While I laughed at the joke of Chon Wang sounding like John Wayne and the sheriff being called Van Cleef, do we really need Jack the Ripper, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Charlie Chaplain showing up in the sequel? It’s as if the film makers really loved the humor done in Forrest Gump and thought they could do the same with this film. It’s a minor complaint but one I did find distracting.

Both films look really good on blu ray. Knights looked better than Noon as I noticed a few shots looked a bit soft during Noon. The 5.1 surround sounded great, also a bit more noticeable during Knights action sequences. Both films are filled with special features such as numerous audio commentaries, a ton of deleted scenes (one sequence in Shanghai Noon had Curtis Armstrong, best known as Booger in Revenge of the Nerds playing a traveling salesman. It’s a shame his scenes were left on the cutting room floor) and plenty of behind the scenes footage. Touchstone did a great job in putting together a wonderful blu ray for fans of the these two films.

Shanghai Noon Rating: ★★★★☆

Shanghai Knights Rating: ★★★☆☆

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