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Laramie Movie Scope:
Shanghai Knights

Chan, Wilson back in top form

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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February 8, 2003 -- Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson are back on top form after a couple of recent critical and box office disasters. Chan's was "The Tuxedo" and Wilson's was "I Spy," both widely cited as among the worst movies to come out last year, and both were flops at the box office as well. The two had teamed up for the very successful action comedy, "Shanghai Noon" a few years ago, and the sequel, "Shanghai Knights" looks to be as good and as funny as the original, and that's rare for a sequel, baby.

Wilson and Chan reprise their "Shanghai Noon" roles as Roy O'Bannon and Chon Wang (pronounced John Wayne) in this sequel. We find Wang (Chan, of "Rush Hour") as a sheriff in the old west as the movie starts. He gets a letter from his sister, Chon Lin (played by Fann Wong) telling him that his father, (played by the venerable Kim Chan of "Lethal Weapon 4") has been murdered and the royal seal of China, entrusted to his family's keeping for generations, has been stolen. Wang sets out to recover the royal seal and to avenge his father's death. He stops off in New York and finds his old buddy, O'Bannon. The two set off for London, the last place to which the royal seal has been traced.

Wang, his sister, and O'Bannon cause headaches for police as they destroy outdoor markets and furniture in rooms all over London. Artie, a police detective (played by Tom Fisher) takes a liking to the three and helps them solve the mystery of whose got the seal with his keen powers of observation and deductive reasoning. The three are also aided by a street urchin (played by Aaron Johnson). The heroes are pitted against some very nasty villains and numerous henchmen. The chief villains are Wu Yip (played by Donnie Yen of "Blade II") and Rathbone (Aidan Gillen of the "Queer as Folk" TV show). Both hope to ascend to the thrones of their respective countries. There is also the beginnings of a romance between O'Bannon and Chon Lin, much to the dislike of her brother, Wang.

As in most stories of this type, the plot is a loose structure upon which to hang a sequence of fight scenes. The fight scenes are elaborate and carefully staged. Chan and Donnie Yen are masters of this kind of martial arts fighting and their on-screen battles are the stuff of legend. One exquisite sequence has Jackie both dancing and fighting to the tune of "Singin' in the Rain." It is a wonderfully entertaining fight scene. Another innovative fight scene has Jackie fighting inside a revolving door. A climactic fight scene takes place in the Big Ben clock tower. According to the film's production notes it looks like Chan and his stunt team choreographed the fight scenes, and they did a fine job of it.

The highly anachronistic sound track includes such golden oldies as "Winchester Cathedral" by the New Vaudville Band, "England Swings" by Roger Miller, "Jeff's Boogie" (written by the great rock guitarist Jeff Beck), by The Yardbirds, and "Magic Bus" and "My Generation" by The Who. It is an unusual soundtrack, but it works with this kind of comedy. The film does have some serious elements, like murder, but it is mostly a comedy and it is very funny, with a number of good sight gags, slapstick gags and jokes. Wilson and Chan are both gifted comic actors. Singapore actress Fann Wong is also very impressive in this film, both as a comic actress and in her fight scenes. The other supporting actors are also very effective. The plot also has a Forrest Gump-like quality in that several characters in the story later become famous. The production values are good with some nice set and costume designs (it was filmed in Canada, England and the Czech Republic). This film rates a B.

For more information on this film, including the movie (synopsis, production notes, Jackie's diaries), downloads (game, AIM icons, desktops, screensaver, e-cards), video, crew, cast, gallery (stills), stunts, game, click on this link to the official home page of Shanghai Knights.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)