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SHANGHAI KNIGHTS , USA/UK , 2003 , MPAA Rating : PG-13 for action violence and sexual content

It is always with a mixture of trepidation and resignation that yours truly approaches the cinematic sequel.  Sure, there was GODFATHER II and THE WRATH OF KHAN, but for the ones that hit, there are a gazillion that miss so big that one's faith in the filmmaking community is sorely tested.  I'm pleased to say that SHANGHAI KNIGHTS, the sequel to SHANGHAI NOON sorely tested nothing except the muscles involved in making me laugh. A lot.

Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, together again, prove themselves to be a weirdly wonderful comedy team, each playing the perfect foil to the other with a difference in style, delivery, timing, and, heck, language that mooshes together with a synergy that defies all logic.

This time out,Chong Wang (Jackie), in the character has his happy life as the sheriff of Carson City, Nevada, interrupted when he's called upon to avenge his father's murder and steal back the imperial Chinese seal with the help of a heretofore unknown sister who is conveniently both drop-dead gorgeous and kick-butt dangerous. Since he needs to get to England fast to do this (never mind why, the plot is >not< the point here), he's forced to look up his erstwhile buddy Roy (Wilson) and get his share of the gold they both got in part one (and that's pretty much all you need to know about SHANGHAI NOON for the purposed of following this story). Roy, alas, not being the brightest even among the dimmest of bulbs, has lost their money with a wild zeppelin scheme and is now supporting himself as a waiter/gigolo. Silliness and adventure ensue.

There's some nasty business about royal coups East and West and a brief encounter with Jack the Ripper that purports to explain why the murders in Whitechapel ceased when they did. But that's not important. What is important is that the banter and the battles and both are wildly entertaining. Jackie with his usual sparkle turns revolving doors, fine porcelain, and citrus fruits into formidable engines of war, even while making a virtue of his iffy English. Words aren't all that necessary when reacting to Wilson's Roy, a slow-talking, slow-witted guy who hasn't quite figured out that he's not just two steps behind everyone else in the thinking department, he's wandered off the path entirely and is lost somehwere in the deep dark woods. When Roy and Chon are slapped behind bars in Scotland Yard, Wilson's reading of "It's NOT a Yard, it's a building," carries the conviction of a man who's telling people something that he actually believes they haven't figured out for themselves and with whom he has lost all patience.  And that, of course, is why it's funny.  The humor throughout is broad and even if the set pieces are cliché, er, classic, they're played with the same comic precision that Jackie uses to do one of his patented leaps of faith from really, really high places.  

The martial arts sequences are, as they should be, inventive, dazzling, and tongue-in-cheek. The best may be the one between Jackie and the Chinese imperial usurper played by Donnie Yen of IRON MONKEY fame, among other martial arts classics. Watching them go at it, Jackie the clown, Yen with a deadly seriousness as fireworks go off around them is terrific. Also good is a sword fight in the bowels of Big Ben between Jackie and another villain of the piece played by Aiden Gillen (Stuart in the British version of QUEER AS FOLK). As those villains, both are properly nasty, though Gillen blazes new trails with a spiky 'do that seems nothing so much as a physical incarnation of the principle of entropy. It's certainly nothing that ever graced Queen Victoria's court as it does here. Not that historical accuracy is what anyone was going for here. Roy's speech, for example, is more 21st century patter than Victorian flowery. As Wayne's sister and Roy's heartthrob, Lin, (hey, we all know there's going to be a sequel and we'll need some sort of premise), Fann Wong is tough, smart, but with a gentle forbearance when dealing with her menfolk's shortcomings.

SHANGHAI KNIGHTS doesn't take itself seriously and neither should we. It's funny in a way that's not mean-spirited, which sets it apart from most of the comedies out there, and it's the first film since the 50s that actually makes a pillow fight sweet.  And, yes, there are outtakes at the end.  Stick around for them.

Click here to listen to the interview with Jackie Chan for THE TUXEDO.

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Moviegoer Review
jon staples (
I agree with a high percentage of your reviews, but this one is actually far less interesting and funny than the original Shanghai Noon. Basically a rehash of the same stuff. Two of youur faces is the most I would give this movie.
joe (millionaire) (
good work! it's a great movie!

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