Thursday, February 13, 2003

Shanghai Knights
Anarchy in the U.K. Kungfu style

Mindless entertainment has its uses especially as an escape during these times of Orange terrorist warnings. Sometimes you just want to forget all the crap that is going on in the world and lose yourself for two hours with some taffy for the brain. This is just the movie for that. And as my friend Jonathan Mayo pointed out a Chan movie is “good, wholesome fun.” Hilarious for the most part, although it feels a bit staged at times, Shanghai Knights will have you laughing outloud at the multiplex. To attempt a plot summary is sorta absurd since the “plot” merely sets up the action scenes, as with almost any Jackie Chan movie. In this movie it is not just setting up the action but the comedy. Absurdity is the operative word with this period-Western-action comedy. Basically the setup takes place in 19th century China where evil British royal Rathbone (Aidan Gillen) skewers the guardian of the Great Seal of China with a knife, who also happens to be the father of Chon Wang (Jackie Chan). Fast forward to Carson City, Nevada where Chon Wang is sheriff. After learning of his father’s murder via a letter from his sister Chon Lin (Fann Wong) Chon Wang heads east to NYC to meet up with his old partner Roy O’Banon (Owen Wilson). The two head off to London to reclaim the Great Seal and avenge the death of Wang’s father.

Most of the movie takes place once Chan and Owens are in London. This duo reminds me of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid-era Newman/Redford except Butch Cassidy is a Kungfu master and the Sundance Kid looks like Rod Stewart and talks like he has smoked too much weed. Ya have to wonder about Wilson’s choice of material. This is quite a departure from Wes Anderson films but who knows – everyone has bills to pay. Director David Dobkin throws in a nod to Harold Lloyd with Chan and Wilson hanging from Big Ben as well pays homage to Gene Kelly with Chan doing “Singing in the Rain.” Since Chan is turning 49 this year his movies are relying more on comedy and less on action. His fight scenes, which he still choreographs, are exciting but nothing like “Rumble in the Bronx.” Being Jackie Chan, who is just about the most lovable action hero ever, relying a bit more on pranks and one liners (although in this movie Wilson gets most of those) won’t hurt his box office appeal. As usual the outtakes are as enjoyable as the movie itself. In this case they are actually funnier. Heavy on the clich├ęs, as well as uninspired one liners, this movie is still enjoyable. No need to have seen “Shanghai Noon” either to enjoy this.