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Shanghai Knights (2003)

PG-13 114 minutes

Directed by David Dobkin
Written by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar

 · Jackie Chan
 · Owen Wilson
 · Fann Wong

Review by Thom Stricklin

As far as I'm concerned, Shanghai Knights, as well as its predecessor, had three strikes against it from the get-go.  Strike 1: I've never liked martial arts movies.  Strike 2: Not liking martial arts movies, I've never been a big fan of Jackie Chan.  Strike 3: Though he's reliably funny in supporting roles, I tire of Owen Wilson rather quickly.

So you'd think there's not much chance of me liking Shanghai Knights.  However, there are times in life when the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, and this film is one such case.




Nobody can deny that Owen and Jackie have a wonderful on-screen chemistry together.  (Far better, in my opinion, than Jackie has with Chris Tucker--my guess is, because Tucker's sheer volume drowns Jackie out, and it's hard for them to come off as peers.) Regardless of anachronisms or irony or attractive Asian women, the duo is obviously what sells this franchise.

The second biggest draw is the humor, which in some cases is only doable in a period piece.  Name puns like "Chon Wang"--try to guess who Inspector Artie turns out to be in this one--and pokes at newfangled inventions such as the automobile and motion pictures are wonderful little reminders of how absurd our society would seem to people a hundred years ago.




Shanghai Knights does suffer some complaints.  It gets redundant, unnecessary, perhaps even a bit draggy at times, especially in one of Jackie Chan's thousands of ladder-stunt scenes.  The villian seemed a bit over-the-top, even for a comedy of this nature.  He'd be better suited as a Bond villian--in fact, I wonder if he's been a Bond villian yet.  He seems awfully familiar.

If you're not careful, it would be easy to write the Shanghai movies as reckless attempts at filmmaking.  There are countless anachronisms in the films, far more than acceptable in most period pieces.  The musical score borders on silly, changing drastically between scenes to fit each particular locale.  And alas, especially in Knights, a good deal of the humor seems "done" already.

But it seems to me the filmmakers fully intended on all of these "complaints".  They throw continuity and originality and subtlety out the window, sending the audience no other message than: "Don't take this movie seriously! Have some fun!"



Shanghai Knights is a fun film.  If you're out with friends looking for something to watch at the multiplex, this sequel wouldn't be a waste of money.  However, you might prefer to wait and see it on DVD, where you can turn the volume down on its loud kung-fu sound effects.

418 Words Published: 10 February 2003

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