Shanghai Knights (2003)

2 Mar


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Shanghai Knights” is the sequel to the 2000 comedic Western “Shanghai Noon,” teaming up kung-fu expert Jackie Chan with smooth-talking, surfer-type Owen Wilson. That film was a modest success, with mainly the likable presence of both actors to make the film consistently entertaining. “Shanghai Knights,” three years later, brings Chan and Wilson back for another crazy adventure, but this time is different in these ways—the film moves to London, England, there are a lot more choreographed fight sequences, and the humor comes from all sorts of historical inaccuracies that recall moments from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” As a result, “Shanghai Knights” is a bit of a mess. It’s dumb and tries too hard at certain points when it loses consistency from the rest of the movie. However, it is also cheerfully goofy and quite funny. Chan and Wilson remain as likable as in the previous film, but also, “Shanghai Knights” delivered more stupid laughs from me than the predecessor did, which I liked fine.

I suppose I should start with the plot, which is arbitrary to say the least. Chan reprises his role as Chon Wang (say it out loud), who is now a sheriff in Carson City, Nevada. (Although, what happened to his Native American wife in the original film is anyone’s guess.) Someone has murdered Chon’s father—the guardian of the Great Seal of China— and Chon hears of the tragedy from his sister Lin (Fann Wong), who has tracked the murderer to London. So Chon goes to team up with his old friend Roy O’Bannon (Wilson) and together, they travel to London to find the culprit and…

Do you even care about the plot? No. Do you get nervous about the tight spots in which Chon and Roy get involved? No. “Shanghai Knights” is merely a source for mindless entertainment. It’s just a setup for comedy, action, or sometimes both. There are many fight sequences in the movie that are choreographed as if they were musical dance numbers (of course, the instrumental score helps to keep the moves in sync). My favorite is a sequence in which Chon is fighting off a gang of thieves in Fleet Street and grabs ahold of an umbrella—cue the “Singin’ in the Rain” music! These sequences are fast, amusing, and just a ton of fun.

It makes things better that Chan does most of his stunts. At least, that’s what I’m assuming, since the outtakes reel at the end show Chan messing up on certain stunt work (though, not terribly). Fann Wong, as Chan’s sexy sister whom Wilson of course becomes interested in, has some feisty moves as well.

Most of the gags come from the use of locations in royal olde England and characters in English literature. We have gags involving an encounter with Jack the Ripper, a visit to Buckingham Palace (they make fun of the royal guards—they don’t like to be touched), and a close call on the minute hand of Big Ben (a la Harold Lloyd). Also making appearances are Charlie Chaplin and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Sherlock Holmes also makes his name known. Neither are those are meant for any type of historical accuracy. The filmmakers know they’re making a silly movie with these references and they just have fun with them. (So what if they add some 1960s pop songs that don’t fit at all?) And I also appreciate the main portion of “Shanghai Knights” takes place in London for evil plotters to make their schemes and moves.

Chan and Wilson are appealing, as is the whole movie. It’s dumb, silly, and thoroughly enjoyable all the way through. Even in the blooper reel, I was cracking up. It shows that the people involved in the making of this movie were clearly having a great time.

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