Director: David Dobkin
Cast: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Fann Wong, Aiden Gillen, Aaron Johnson, Donnie Yen, Tom Fisher
MPAA Rating: (for action violence and sexual content)
Running Time: 1:47
Release Date: 2/7/03
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Review by Mark Dujsik
Jackie Chan is, in my mind, the
worldís greatest entertainer of our times. His movies are excuses for complicated fight and stunt sequences, and
even when they are weak compared to what weíve come to expect from him, they
still bring a smile to my face. Looking
at his filmography, whatís interesting to note is that heís been involved in
Chon Wang (Chan) is now sheriff
of a Western town and partially famous because of a series of pulp novels about
the exploits of his old partner Roy OíBannon (Owen Wilson). News reaches Chon from his sister Lin (Fann Wong) in the
The setting leads to a wealth of very clever jokes and gags, ranging from historically appropriate to anachronistic fabrication. Weaved throughout the central plot are minor allusions to the goings-on of the period. Jack the Ripper is stalking Whitechapel, Roy has invested loads of money into zeppelins, and small reminders of Britainís Imperialist domain are occasionally touched upon. Through a small amount of research, I learn that the end result of one characterís encounter with Saucy Jack is actually one of the many theories of the sudden cessation of his dirty work. A pair of new associates is introduced this time around. First is a young Cockney orphan and thief whose encounters with Chon, we learn later, will heavily influence his future career. The other is a Scotland Yard inspector named Artie whose real dream is to become a writer. Add to that the fact that heís a master of deductive reasoning, and you should be able to guess his future literary creation. Then there is the cultural teasing in which a lot of nice one-liners and situational gags poke good fun at our friends across the Atlantic. The jokes are pretty obvious (bad teeth, gloomy weather, and unique cuisine are perennial favorites), but they still manage to draw out a chuckle.
The situational comedy is nothing compared to the primary reason this sequel works so well. The combination of and interaction between Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson are worth another excursion. Wilsonís Roy is a walking, talking anachronism in himself. Just as before, heís an ahead-of-his-time, mellow, liberal, self-aware, self-proclaimed Renaissance man with the best intentions but the worst judgment, and Wilson is still hilarious in the role. Chan has the opportunity to really show off in his fight and stunt sequences. His precise, graceful movements and control and awareness of the environment around him are always incredible to watch. There are moments watching him in which we start to think of him in the way weíd think of someone like Gene Kelly. Just in time for the thought to pass through our heads, Chan pays homage to Kellyís performance of "Singiní in the Rain," complete with umbrella and soundtrack. Another fight scene is reminiscent of the Keystone Kops, in which Chan weaves in and out of a revolving battling to escape the police. Unlike some of his recent work, these sequences are more in tune with Chanís athletic abilities and his sharp sense of physical humor.Thatís what keeps Shanghai Knights fresh compared to the slew of other sequels that invade the cinema. It stays true to the premise and expands on the elements that worked before. With that mindset, thereís legitimate potential for a continuing series with these characters. But letís be grateful for what we have with the first two films, because itís a rarity.
Copyright © 2003 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.