Volume 96, Issue 75
Thursday, February 12, 2003

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MOVIE REVIEW: Shanghai Knights
Chan and Wilson bring the action in Knights

Shanghai Knights
Starring: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Fann Wong
Directed by: David Dobkin

By Mark Polishuk
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
WHO SAYS DRINKING HINDERS YOUR PERFORMANCE? Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson reveal the source of their secret powers - good old alcohol.
Jackie Chan's movies are generally just excuses to film a few breathtaking action scenes, so anything above and beyond that is just gravy. Shanghai Knights, therefore, represents the gravy train pulling into the station. This movie is flat-out great entertainment, and perhaps Chan's best American film.

Picking up where Shanghai Noon left off, Chon Wang (Chan), now a Western sheriff in 1887, gets a telegram from his sister Lin (Fann Wong), citing the death of their father, and that China's Imperial Seal, a doorknob-sized gem, has been stolen. Lin has traced the culprits to London, and so Chon recruits his old pal, the womanizing hack novelist Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) to come with him to England.

From there, the plot ends up with Chon and Roy trying to save Queen Victoria and half her family from assassination at the hands of her evil nephew (Aiden Gillen) and his partner, Wu Chan (Donnie Yen), an enemy of Chon's family. This story of father-killing and attempted regicide may sound grim, but then again, this is also the kind of movie where a serious argument between Chon and Roy is resolved by a pillow fight with a roomful of prostitutes.

The funniest of all running gags in Knights is how the film barely even tries to pretend that it's really taking place in 1887. Roy's speech is peppered with modern slang, he talks of being a Hollywood action star when the cinema itself had barely been invented and he speaks of the machine gun apparently being an English invention (high school history class be damned). Chon, Roy and Lin also encounter such British luminaries as Charlie Chaplin, Arthur Conan Doyle and even Jack the Ripper.

A movie like this would be nothing without the great chemistry between its two stars. Chan does a great job as the straight man to the dry wit of Owen Wilson, one of the funniest men in movies today. His attempts to seduce Lin are hilarious in their utter cheesiness. Wilson has the gift of being able to take the most normal line and turn it into a gut-buster.

Chan's gift, of course, is busting his gut, while performing his amazing stunts. Some of the action sequences in this film, involving a revolving door and a series of canopies, are worth the price of admission alone. Only in a Jackie Chan movie can a high-impact fight scene suddenly turn into a spoof of Singin' In The Rain.

Rumour has it that a third Shanghai film is already in the works, which is great news to fans of action and comedy. Sure, it'll probably be about Chon and Roy stopping the McKinley assassination or some ridiculous thing, but there is no doubt it will be fun.


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