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"Shanghai Knights"

Directed by David Dobkin.
Written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. 
Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Donnie Yen and Fann Wong.
Release Year:  2003 
Review Date:  2/10/03 


Well, it is the dog days of movies, so it gets harder and harder to find good quality mainstream fare this time of year as the Oscar nominations quickly approach.  Don’t worry, Derwin--I’m still gonna catch “Final Destination 2”, but in the meantime, I caught up with the sequel to the so-so “Shanghai Noon” first.

Jackie Chan is back again as Chon Wang (sounds a lot like “John Wayne”), now sheriff of Carson City, Nevada in 1887.  He is just hangin’ out when the movie opens, as he learns that his father has been murdered by a rich Londoner named Rathbone (Aiden Gillen) who is bent on ruling England.  So, with his sister Lin (Fann Wong), he needs to get to England to track down Rathbone and retrieve a mystical seal...but first, he needs help getting there from his old friend Roy (Owen Wilson), who is living in New York City and is holding the gold that the twosome discovered in the first film.  At least, so Chon thinks!  Once the three heroes get to England, they face trouble not only with Rathbone, but with Rathbone’s mysterious partner (Donnie Yen), the inspectors at Scotland Yard, and...a lot of guards with swords.

You never really go to see Jackie’s films for the plot, but at least the plot here is interesting.  Otherwise, you get one of Jackie’s best American films yet.  The martial arts legend turns 50 next year, and although he is starting to look a bit weathered in the face, you wouldn’t know it by all the stuntwork, as he is in top form once again with his amazing combination of athleticism, slight of hand and the ability to make us laugh at all that is going on.  All of the set action pieces work here, helped immeasurably by an amped-up set of sound effects and good-looking visuals around the fight scenes.  Wong is pretty hot and it helps that she throws a mean roundhouse; Yen is not featured enough here (he was in “Iron Monkey”, way back in the early 90s before a re-release here in the US) but his end fight scene is pretty good.  Gillen is serviceable, but his biggest problem is that he looks shockingly similar to Alec Baldwin.  So much so, in fact, that I spent the first 15 minutes of the movie wondering just what the hell Alec Baldwin is doing right now, since I haven’t seen him in a film in quite some time.

And, Owen Wilson is doing in “Shanghai Knights” what he does best--stand aside, be the sidekick, and provide the comic relief.  Much like he was in the first “Shanghai” film, or in his better comic turns in “Meet the Parents” and “Rushmore”, the guy is meant to do comedy, and not much more.  Some of his deliveries in “Shanghai Knights” are just flat-out hilarious.  These talents, plus his writing credits with Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums”, “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore”), make me think the guy might consider just doing comedy, since he is so good at it.  I just don’t buy him in films like “Behind Enemy Lines”, since nothing about Owen Wilson screams “action hero”, but he is solid here.

There is not enough of Yen, the acting on the part of nearly everyone that is not a lead performer is quite poor, and the script’s reliance on making every character’s name some part of English or American history becomes tiresome...but, this is still a great time at the movies.  The packed house that watched with me this weekend was quite entertained as well.  Check it out if you like your action / adventure with a little comedy...and, don’t forget to stay for some hilarious outtakes!!

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09