[MOVIE REVIEW]Latest 'Shanghai' tale full of fun, no surpriseFor the second week in a row, we've got Owen Wilson starring in a goofy buddy movie, neither of which is likely to win many Oscars come award time next month. But as much of a glib, limp failure "I, Spy" was, "Shanghai Knights" succeeds as a fun, fast-paced action-comedy.
The original "Shanghai Noon" -- the late-19th century story of Jackie Chan and Mr. Wilson going to the wild west in search of a Chinese princess -- was a witty, energetic mixture of martial arts, stunts and inspired anachronisms.
The sequel is everything you want in a sequel -- more of the same, just turned up louder, with just enough new additions to keep the story fresh. In fact, "Shanghai Knights" just might be Jackie Chan's best English-language film to date.
This time, the story begins in Nevada, where Mr. Chan's character, Chon Wang, is the sheriff of a small desert town. He soon receives word from China that his father was been killed. It turns out that the Chon family has for generations been the guardians of the Chinese emperor's royal seal, the symbol of his power. But a vile English nobleman and a Chinese ne'er-do-well have teamed up to help each other gain the thrones in their respective countries.
It's an elaborate and somewhat unnecessary setup, but it gets the story, such as it is, going.
So Chon Wang is off to England, in search of revenge. On the way, he stops in New York to pick up his old buddy from "Shanghai Noon," Roy O'Bannon (Wilson). Then they're off to London where they not so much hunt for the killer of Wang's father as just get involved in a series of skits and adventures.
They are joined in their quest by Wang's sister, Lin (Fann Wong). Roy is immediately smitten, and much of the film involves Wang trying to keep the two of them apart.
But since this is a Jackie Chan comedy, you know the plot is taking a backseat to the comic martial arts skits. And in this regard, "Shanghai Knights" succeeds extremely well.
The fights, and the film in general, are often full of fun anachronisms and movie references to the Keystone Kops, "Singing in the Rain," Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, among others. Some of these are glaringly obvious, but others sneak up on you and are quite inventive, especially the appearance of Charlie Chaplin.
The bad guys of the piece, Wu Chan (Donnie Yen) and Rathbone (Aiden Gillen) sneer and scheme appropriately, and in general do all the dumb but necessary things that movie villains do in order to make sure the good guys avoid certain death and get their revenge.
Both Mr. Chan and Mr. Wilson have had their share of duds in recent years, but together they form a goofy and most worthwhile comic team.
by Mark Russell