Volume 94, Issue 3
Friday, June 2, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Jackie kicks serious ass
Photo by Douglas Curran
DAMN! THESE SADDLE SORES ARE KILLER! Jackie Chan's first horseback riding experience proves to be painfully fun as he and Owen Wilson ride into theatres in Shanghai Noon.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu
Directed by: Tom Dey
By Rebecca Morier
Even though we all know martial arts master Jackie Chan can do just about anything, few of us would imagine that saddling up and uttering "Howdy pardner" was part of his style.
But as the funny and highly entertaining Shanghai Noon exhibits, there's plenty of room for an Eastern flavour in western films.
In this comedy-action adventure, shot in the picturesque landscapes of Alberta, Chan plays Chon Wang, an imperial guard, expedited from China's Forbidden City to Nevada's Carson City to rescue the kidnapped Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu). While undertaking this arduous assignment, the novice broncobuster ends up in episodes requisite in western films, including saloon brawls and encounters between cowboys and natives.
When a robbery goes awry aboard the train on which Chon Wang is riding, he confronts the clumsy clan of bandits responsible for the heist, led by headman Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson). Since a cowboy needs a partner as much as he needs a horse, Chon and Roy pair up to form the Dynamic Duo of the Wild West.
There is no doubt as to the sense of camaraderie that arises between Chan and Wilson. Not since Chan's last pairing with Chris Tucker in 1998's Rush Hour,has there been two more oddly paired actors, whose own strong individual personalities infuse the film with vibrant chemistry.
As a charismatic and likeable stuntman extraordinaire, Chan always stands to undermine his costars but not here. Wilson's portrayal of the roguish desperado is strong, especially with a surfer charm that permeates through his southern drawl.
Leading lady Liu (from television's Ally McBeal) also delivers a solid performance as the graceful and resilient princess in distress. She even throws a few karate moves while being held hostage.
With high intensity action scenes that pack more punch than the average western film, the plot moves fast; stalling only to gratify the audience with comic indulgences. One of the most memorable moments depicts Roy and Chon playing a Chinese drinking game in the bath, a scene guaranteed to make the audience laugh hysterically.
Yet to avoid landing itself in the nonsensical world of farce, there are also plenty of subtler funny moments, the film spoofs almost every classic cowboy convention in some way or another.
The far East-goes-Old West theme is a precarious premise that, if not executed carefully, could have led to another contemptible, no-brainer action flick. For Tom Dey's directorial debut, the film is as smartly assembled and well delivered as the brawling sequences are choreographed. The result is a film that's witty and fun entertainment in its purest form.
Although some moments are cliche, the film as a whole never takes itself too seriously. With a clever and capable balance between comic dialogue and physical comedy, Shanghai Noon reminds us that, even in the West, everybody loves kung fu fighting.
Copyright © The Gazette 2000