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Guilty Pleasures

Shanghai Knights 

Shanghai Knights Movie Stills: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Aidan Gillen, David Dobkin
It's Ten O'clock. Do you know where your action stars are?


Directed by: David Dobkin

Written by: Alfred Gough & Miles Millar

Main Cast:

Jackie Chan - Chon Wang 
Owen Wilson - Roy O'Bannon 
Fann Wong - Chon Lin 
Donnie Yen - Wu Yip
Thomas Fisher - Artie Doyle 
Aaton Johnson - Charlie 
Aidan Gillen - Rathbone  
Rated PG-13  

“This isn't a yard. It's a jail!” 

To sum up: Could a man named Chon Wang be a sheriff in the old west? How 'bout a movie star? It's the return of the "Shanghai Noon" gang, getting into trouble in London.

     Jackie Chan films are simple. They should be simple. Nothing complex. The man just wants to entertain and be successful in America. He doesn't seem vain or pretentious; just a likable guy and for the most part when he does a film you are guaranteed to have a couple of hours of light, distracting fun. I went expecting this and this is what I came away with. 

     Jackie is back as former Chinese Imperial guard Chon Wang. He's been a sheriff in Nevada these past few years and has racked up a large list of captured outlaws. One day, though, he gets a letter from China; from his sister to be exact. Sadly, his father has been killed, the Royal Seal of the Emperor stolen, and she has gone after the killer to London. Immediately, Jackie goes to New York to seek out his old friend Roy Bannon (Owen Wilson) and together the head to London. 

     Now of all the sidekicks that Jackie has had in his American films, I like Owen's Roy the best. He's got an easy charm and though he's playing a similar type as Chris Tucker, he's not grating nor loud. Plus you don't get the racial jokes and slurs that come with Tucker. Roy's a laid back slacker, who though incompetent, of course has a heart of gold. He wants to do good, have a better life, and make a name for himself. He's even set about selling a series of "true" paperback thrillers about himself. He's a famous gunslinger and poor Jackie is known as his faithful sidekick, the Shanghai Kid. The problem is that Roy's a slave to his bad habits. I can relate to that. Maybe that's why I like him. 

     Jackie, of course, is the straight man who happens to be able to kick a lot of butt. If there's a problem, it's he who has to clean up the mess and get them out of trouble. This film is also a reminder of just how much Jackie's performance provides the source of laughs. He's a skilled man, the Buster Keeton of action stars, but he knows the essential need of being able to act; to sell a scene through the expressions of the face.

     Fann Wong is pretty unremarkable as Wang's sister. She's feisty and strong but there really isn't anything distinctive about her that would make her very memorable after the film is over.

     Aiden Gillen is the villain Rathbone. He's marginal as well. He plays the role that is expected but doesn't really grab you as being particularly new or threatening. He's gives his role the Snidely Whiplash flair. I would love to have learned how this guy got elected to the British parliament in this film.

     The plot is pretty standard, involving plans of rising to power. You know, the usual stuff. Unfortunately, if you go see a Jackie Chan film for the plot, you got problems. 

     What saves the film is the winning combination of Chan and Wilson. They both have charm and an easy chemistry together. They play off of each other very well and the good thing is that they both carry their scenes well enough that one does not get impatient when the story is focusing on only one of the them.

     There are an assortment of fun fight scenes that cleverly incorporate a revolving door, fruit, a canvass awning, and valuable pottery that can't be broken. The pottery scene even reminded me of a similar scene in the Chan classic "Fearless Hyena". They were fun to watch and a source of many laughs. They were also a vast improvement over his last film, "The Tuxedo".

     In short this is a film that is good clean fun. It's still American Jackie Chan; a slower film with more plot exposition and less dazzling action. But if you want a couple of hours of innocent fun, take the time to see this Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson flick.

     Look out! Ol' Jackie is back!

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