out of Five
Running time: 114
Enjoyable action comedy, with both Chan and Wilson on top form – impressive fight scenes and enough good gags to make you forget the bad ones.
Shanghai Knights is probably one of the more welcome sequels of recent months. The follow-up to the surprise 2000 hit Shanghai Noon, it reunites both Jackie Chan (as Chon Wang) and Owen Wilson (as Roy O’Bannon), as well as scriptwriting team Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. The result is that rare thing - a sequel that’s actually marginally better than the original.
Simple Plot – Maximum Fighting
The plot is pretty simple. In the opening sequence, Evil Lord Rathbone
(Aidan Gillen, from Queer As Folk) kills Wang’s father and makes off with the Imperial Seal. Wang’s sister Lin (the rather lovely Fann Wong) heads to London in hot pursuit and sends word to Sheriff Chon Wang (pronounced ‘John Wayne’, though they don’t labour that gag as much this time), who picks up Roy in New York and brings him to London to seek his revenge.
Once there, they find themselves embroiled in a plot to assassinate the British Royal Family. (There are a lot of them about – see also the upcoming Johnny English).
However, the plot is really just an excuse for a series of superb fight
scenes and a selection of gags, which vary considerably in quality.
Chan’s other American movies have frequently suffered from a tendency to over-edit his fights. Here, however, he does his own fight choreography and we’re treated to several classic sequences in which he does battle with anything that comes to hand - a bit with a revolving door is a particular highlight. There’s also an excellent sequence with an umbrella, though that’s spoiled somewhat by the decision to play ‘Singing In The Rain’ over the top of it, just in case anyone didn’t get the joke.
A Few Bad Gags…Not That It Matters
The gags are a mixed lot. There are an awful lot of very poor ‘British’
jokes (the Brits have bad teeth, the weather is awful, we eat ‘spotted dick’ and haggis etc) and there are also far too many ‘comic’ historical references – for example, it’s one thing to have Wang and Roy ‘accidentally’ create Sherlock Holmes for Arthur Conan Doyle, but they also meet both Charlie Chaplin (an annoying kid – big mistake) and Jack the Ripper, so the overall effect is that of an over-egged pudding.
Luckily, however, Owen Wilson is an actor who could be funny while reading the telephone directory, although even he admitted that he felt embarrassed at having to say some of the lines and came up with his own wherever possible. At any rate, the chemistry between him and Chan is definitely there and they make an extremely likeable pair.
There’s also good support from both Fann Wong and Aiden Gillen as the
villain (his character name clearly a reference to Basil Rathbone), who, frankly, could have been given more to do. In fact, at least one of his scenes was hacked down by the studio – according to Chan, the climactic swordfight was originally much longer and involved Gillen fighting with the right hand, then the left, then both. Here’s hoping the full-length (spectacular) fight ends up on the DVD.
In short, if you enjoyed Shanghai Noon, then you’re certain to enjoy this – as an undemanding action comedy it delivers on all fronts (the odd crap gag excepted) and is definitely worth watching. The studio, however, are so confident of a hit that both stars are already signed up for a threequel, Shanghai Dawn…