When a Chinese rebel murders Chon’s estranged father and flees to England, Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) head to London for revenge. In the meantime, Chon’s sister Lin (Fann Wong) has the same idea and uncovers a conspiracy to murder the Royal family, but no-one believes her. With the help of a Scotland Yard Inspector (Thomas Fischer) and a 10 year old street urchin (Aaron Johnson), Chon gives Victorian Britain a kick in the pants as he tries to avenge his father’s death and keep the romance-minded Roy away from his sister.
Review by Louise Keller:
Original and deliciously entertaining, Shanghai Knights takes the buddy premise of Shanghai Noon one notch further with a splendid romp of inventive martial arts action complemented by witty humour in spectacular settings. The Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson combination is a winning one: Chan is a master at physical, while Wilson has the leading man presence with the droll delivery. They look as though they are having a ball and it’s infectious. This is a marriage of ideas, likeable characters, lively music and fabulous settings. The script cleverly places both these characters out of their elements, resulting in a marvellous juxtaposition of place, characters and music. The plot is wildly ludicrous, but because the characters are so beautifully created, we simply embrace it and jump on the horse-driven carriage and go for the ride. We go from the ornate settings of China to the decadence of New York and to the tradition of England. There’s plenty to feast your eyes on and plenty to amuse. I’m still chuckling over the spectacle, the funny lines and the marvellous great screen presence of its two stars. The clever joke from Shanghai Noon which made the mispronunciation of Chon Wang’s name sound like John Wayne is taken further yet again: this is an example of how spontaneous and natural is the humour. Chan’s action choreography is inspired with an ingenious sequence using a hotel revolving door, while another in the London markets uses jackets, flower barrows, fruit stalls, ladders and umbrellas to create a dance-like routine which ends with a tribute to Singin’ in the Rain. But there is a tip of the hat to several other heroes, like Charlie Chaplin and Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Then there’s the set piece in Madame Tussauds, the fight sequence under the stars and a myriad of fireworks as well as the big bang under Big Ben, when the minute hand momentarily stops. Chan has never been better and Wilson is irresistible – he is vulnerable in the most appealing way. Chon Lin too is a knockout as Chan’s sister and Roy’s love interest – pretty as a picture and executes a high kick with deadly precision. Yes, there are sword fights, summersaults and imaginative action pieces. Plus there are pieces of nonsense, like the feather pillow fight, the harem fantasy sequence and the countless other, often ridiculous treats to savour. And don’t miss the out-takes, when all the bungles are happily bounced around playfully. Non stop entertainment that satisfies on every count, Shanghai Knights is a great escape.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Set in the year of Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, 1888, Shanghai Knights does what Shanghai Noon (set a little earlier) did much better. It combines action, adventure, comedy and drama, where the action is largely provided by Jackie Chan’s special style of acrobatic – and bloodless - kung fu. In this outing, Chan and Owen Wilson are given a sillier plot and pretentious drama which just make the darned thing longer. The film’s strengths are still Jackie Chan’s fascinatingly inventive fight sequences, which are extensions of the knockabout physical comedy of the great silent era, embellished with Chan’s frenetic martial arts antics. There are three outstanding examples of this in Shaghai Knights (as well as two less successful ones). The first is set in the revolving doors of a large hotel, and is especially inventive; the second is set in a London fruit market, and continues beyond, in a routine featuring umbrellas and recalling Singin’ In The Rain (complete with musical cues). The third is a combo that begins with the secret passage/revolving mantlepiece routine, in which Chan’s character conducts a silent fight spinning in and out of the room while a distracted Owen Wilson becomes impatient with his partner’s apparent hide and seek games. For me, these are enough to make the film worthwhile, but then my first movie experiences were of Charlie Chaplin. Speaking of whom, the film (perhaps as a vague tribute) makes out that a young street pickpocket was none other than Charlie, which is invented. But this is part of the screenplay’s handful of jives about real people, from Queen Victoria herself to Arthur Conan-Doyle (and his invention, Sherlock Holmes). And of course Jackie Chan’s character has always been called Chon Wang as an ongoing jokey John Wayne reference. On its own terms, the film delivers what it means to, but not as much as it could.
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SHANGHAI KNIGHTS (M) Low Violence
CAST: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Donnie Yen, Fann Wong, Aidan Gillen Tom Fisher, Kim Chan, Gemma Jones
PRODUCER: Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman
DIRECTOR: David Dobkin
SCRIPT: Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Adrian Biddle, Harvey Harrison
EDITOR: Malcolm Campbell
MUSIC: Randy Edelman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Allan Cameron
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 10, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
VIDEO RELEASE: August 20, 2003