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Shanghai Noon

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Shanghai Noon

Starring: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson
Director: Tom Dey
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 105 Minutes
Release Date: May 2000
Genres: Action, Comedy, Martial Arts

*Also starring: Lucy Liu, Curtis Armstrong, Xander Berkeley, Rongguang Yu, Jason Connery, Henry O

Review by John Beachem
3½ stars out of 4

It's 1881, and the royal Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) has fled her home in China's Forbidden City to visit the west. Unfortunately she has been kidnapped, and the ransom has been set at one hundred thousand pieces of gold. Three royal guards have been sent to America to deliver the gold. Accompanying them is Chon Wang (Jackie Chan), a guard who is not particularly popular among his people for reasons never explained to us. As Wang's group heads toward Carson City to deliver the gold, their train is robbed by the surfer like Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and his gang of rather brain dead thugs. Wang is seperated from the other guards. He forms an unlikely alliance with O'Bannon in an attempt to rescue the princess on his own. Accompanying the two very different men are Wang's new wife, Falling Leaf (Brandon Merrill), who turns out to be an expert marksman, and a horse who can follow commands better than any dog. Against them are a group of renegade lawmen led by the evil, blood-thirsty Marshall Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley) and a former Chinese warrior (Roger Yuan), who now runs a labor camp.

As everyone knows, Jackie Chan movies are not held to the same standard as most other films. Chan's films are present for no other reason than to entertain with slapstick humor and amazing acts of physical dexterity. I'm happy to say that on both counts, "Shanghai Noon" delivers. Does that mean this is a great film? No, of course not. A Jackie Chan movie can never be classified as great. "Shanghai Noon" Is really nothing more than goofy, mindless fluff that audience members will forget days after viewing. Does that mean there's nothing deep and meaningful about this movie? Frankly, yes. The subject of the treatment of Chinese workers in the old west is touched upon briefly; but you'll be pleased to hear that the remainder of the film is devoted entirely to Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson acting like goofballs, and the two get some great goofball scenes together. Two of the funniest ones are where they have to escape from a jail cell, and another where they play a rather bizarre drinking game in a whore house.

Jackie Chan has been called the Buster Keaton of the '90s. At first I didn't believe this to be an accurate statement, since many of his older films ("Rumble in the Bronx" in particular) are a little more serious. However, after the release of "Rush Hour" two years ago, Chan has shown himself to be quite the comedian. While physical comedy is obviously his forte, Chan is also a master of hysterical facial expressions. Watch his face in a scene where tomahawks are being hurled at him. On the other hand, Owen Wilson ("The Haunting") is great at dialogue driven comedy. He is given some of the movie's best lines like, "Stop it! We're men, we're not pinatas." Yet despite some great comical moments, I had a hard time seeing Wilson as anything more than a surfer stuck in the old west. Chan and Wilson obviously make up the majority of the film, with the other characters amounting to little more than props. Lucy Liu ("Play it to the Bone") gives a strangely subdued performance and hardly appears in the picture. Xander Berkely ("Gattaca") is strangely amusing, rather than scary, considering the type of character he is supposed to be playing.

Okay everyone, you're obviously going to see "Shanghai Noon" to watch Jackie Chan do some amazing acrobatics using all sorts of scenery. Thankfully there is quite a bit more action here than was present in "Rush Hour". He also gets some interesting props to work with: like a horseshoe tied to a rope; a pair of antlers sans moose; and in a rather amazing scene, a few pine trees. It's also a lot of fun watching Chan's old fashion warrior try and use a six shooter for the first time. The movie's main faults come from some interesting minor characters being given no screen time. Brandon Merrill's character is especially interesting, but she appears in the film for no more than two minutes at a time. Another problem is a gratingly bad soundtrack, which doesn't fit the movie in any way. The movie ends with Chan's trademark outtakes which were some of the funniest I've seen from one of his movies. Also, watch for an appearance by "Revenge of the Nerds" star Curtis Armstrong. "Shanghai Noon" runs a bit too long at 110 minutes, when Chan's movies should always stick to a 90 minute running time. I'd recommend the film to anyone who enjoyed "Rush Hour" and give it three and a half out of five stars.

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* * * * * - One of the best movies of the year. * * * * - Great flick, try and catch this one. * * * - Okay movie, hits and misses. * * - Pretty bad, see it at your own risk. * - See this one only if you enjoy pain.

Copyright 2000 John Beachem

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