Retro Review: Shanghai Noon

It’s East meets West in a very clever and often hilarious film.

Jackie Chan stars as a Chinese Imperial Guard sworn to protect the princess of China.
One fateful night he witnesses her leave the “Forbidden City” with a British man who is bound for the Americas. But quickly the princess is betrayed and held for ransom by a Chinese traitor. Now it’s up to Jackie to save the princess before the Emperor’s fortune is turned over for her.

In recent years we have seen so many horrible comedy westerns. Can anyone remember the films “Wagons East” or “Almost Heroes”? Bringing in the conception and assumption that this film would follow in the same tradition, I wasn’t prepared to what I actually witnessed. I laughed myself silly in a lot of the situations. It was fresh, intelligent, action-packed and a wonderful surprise.

I remember back to some of the staples of the comedy-westerns and I remember fond movies like “Blazing Saddles” and “Cat Ballou”. I am actually surprised Hollywood has been able to recapture the magic I loved so much in those classic films. The best way to describe this enlightenment is imagining throwing the magic that is Jackie Chan into one of these films.

What some movie-goers might be scratching their heads about maybe Jackie’s sidekick “Owen Wilson”. Who is Owen Wilson? Well he has been in a lot of big Hollywood films in the past couple years. Some of his credits include “Armageddon”, “Anaconda”, and “The Haunting”. In each of those films he was always the wise-cracking guy who seemed to talk like a nervous surfer.

But what might be his greatest achievement during his recent Hollywood stint was his turn in “The Minus Man” where he was the star and that film became an indie darling. In this film, Owen has all the charm he had in his previous work except here he exploits the riches of his philosophical complaining surfer. He molds that routine into a cowboy who can’t believe his gang can’t work together.

My biggest complaint about this film is the little use of Lucy Liu. She has a lot of presence but here she is just lost. Any actress could have played her part.

Wilson’s constant evaluations mixed with the high octane presence of Jackie Chan makes for a hilarious duo. The clever dialogue that comes from Wilson isn’t in the script alone but apart of what could make Wilson stand out from the rest of the crowd.

His timing is impeccable.

I loved the scenes where Jackie has to face off against a whole horde of Indians and uses a couple trees as his weapons. Jackie is the man of the moment as he uses such strange weapons as some elk horns, a horseshoe on a string and a church bell. Wow.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

Written: May 26, 2000

2 thoughts on “Retro Review: Shanghai Noon

  1. Crazy as it sounds, the Chan/Wilson combo kinda worked for me, and I enjoyed this one way more than I thought I would.

  2. i enjoyed this movie too. i love kung fu movies, and often think that actors like chan and jet li fare badly in western movies, but shanghai noon i did like. shanghai knights (its sequel) is good too

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