Shanghai Noon was an enjoyable romp in the Wild West with two unusual companions; laid back perennial sidekick Owen Wilson and hyper kinetic kung fu master Jackie Chan. These two unlike partners have returned for the sequel, Shanghai Knights and luckily the chemistry they had in the first film is still in evident.
To kick off the plot; evil sneering English Lord Rathbone (Aidan Gillen) kicks off the proceedings by killing Chon Wang’s (Jackie Chan) father to steal the royal Imperial Seal of China. As Rathbone escapes back to England, he is unwittingly followed by Lin (Fann Wong), Wang’s sister who is intent on revenge.
When Wang finds out what has happened he quits his sheriff job in Carson City and heads off to London, stopping only in New York to pick up his former partner Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson). Roy, who claims to be a famous playboy writer, is in actual fact living as a waiter/gigolo and, luckily for him, he’s in need of leaving town in a hurry when Wang arrives to collect him.
With the two friends arrival in London it transpires that Lord Rathbone is not only an influential royal, but is involved in a plot to kill the entire Royal family enabling him to be crowned King as he’s tenth in line to the throne already. As Wang, Roy and Lin get closer to their target, Rathbone, they discover that he is not alone. Rathbone is in league with Wu Yip (Donnie Yen) a pretender to the Chinese throne and in return for helping Rathbone kill the Royal family, he gets the Imperial Seal and China in the process.
With the three heroes trying to prevent the massacre of the Royal family and retrieve the Chinese royal seal, all they have to do is to avoid the local constabulary, Rathbone, Wu Yip, Wu Yip’s men and also stay alive – simple really.
The key appeal of Shanghai Knights is once again the ebullient mixture of Jackie Chan’s kung fu shenanigans and Owen Wilson’s laid-back understated monologues. As expected the two leads wear their characters like well fitting suits and it shows. They are basically playing characters that suit their styles right down to the ground.
New comer Fann Wong, better known as a canto-pop star, is a welcome addition to the cast and does hold her own. Aidan Gillen is good as the sneering, evil villain of the piece. He makes quite a formidable enemy as does Donnie Yen. Yen, who is a huge star in Asia, once again doesn’t really get the chance to show his fight skills, but does do much better job than his part in Blade 2 (which was little more than an extended cameo). His fight with Chan should have been the highlight of the film but is over too quickly.
Speaking of fights scenes, Shanghai Knights has Jackie Chan doing what he does best – well choreographed, fluid fight scenes that involved numerous stunt men being thrown, punched, kicked and hit with various things which are lying around. This time the fight scenes are much more reminiscent of Chan’s Hong Kong films, especially with a Keystone Cops melee in a Manhattan hotel, a scrap in a London market with Chan armed with nothing but an umbrella and the climactic fight inside of Big Ben - very reminiscent of Harold Lloyd.
The humour levels are high too, with director David Dobkin keeping the laughs and thrills coming at a fare old pace. There are the usual London sightseeing points in the film such as Buckingham Palace, Madame Tussauds, Houses of Parliament, Whitechapel and Big Ben. Along the way there are many comical cameos from the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle and so on.
On the whole Shanghai Knights is an enjoyable, if a little irrelevant, romp. Amazingly Jackie Chan, who is 50 (!) is still doing the insane stuff that he’s always done. With the success of the two films in the series already, let’s hope that he and Owen Wilson can keep the momentum going for the third planned film titled Shanghai Dawn. Hopefully there will be a Shanghai Brunch, Shanghai Early Evening, Shanghai Dusk and Shanghai Midday (hang on isn’t that Shanghai Noon?)
BACK TO THE REVIEWS