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"Shanghai Noon"

Directed by Tom Dey.
Written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. 
Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu.
Release Year:  2000 
Review Date:  5/27/00 

Folks-- 

Before we talk about today's movie, I'd like to discuss a more important topic at hand:

Alicia Silverstone!

Did you see the picture of her in the Sunday edition of Parade Magazine?  Good Lord!  The woman looks like she is doing heroin on weekends and chasing that with two bottles of Jim Beam...after every meal!  I didn't even want to read the article about her, because although I'm sure it was to talk about her upcoming movies or her past successes, the real story was right in front of me on the cover:  the woman's stylist needs to be fired (along with the hairdresser for Mena Suvari, who somehow made Suvari--star of "American Pie" and "American Beauty"--look like a fucked-up dog at the Oscars last month).

Anyway, the movie.  Being that it is a rainy Memorial Day weekend Saturday here in DC, movies were in order.  Who better to call than Monica "Anime" Cappiello, world-renowned artiste and a Bellview favorite for her movie prowess.  Monica, her out-of-town friend Bridgette and I went to catch "Shanghai Noon" at a theater out in Centreville.  When I first saw the preview for this film, I was 99% sure that I was never going to see this movie, even if offered to me for free...but, after dissing the preview for "Galaxy Quest" and then finding that it was a really funny movie, I decided to never say never and bite on this new Jackie Chan film.

If you have seen any Jackie Chan movies before--the ones released or fully produced in the US include "Rumble in the Bronx," "Supercop," "Twin Dragons" and "Rush Hour"--you know basically that all of his films are action-comedies, with more stress on the laughs (at least, in theory) than on the action.  "Shanghai Noon" is no different.  Jackie is playing an imperial guard in 1880s China that must travel to America to retrieve a princess (Lucy Liu) that has been kidnapped by a renegade guardsman and held hostage with other Chinese slaves in Carson City, Nevada.  When Jackie's team of rescuers is separated during a train robbery, he must set off on his own to find the princess with the help of an infamous bandit named Roy (Owen Wilson) who knows the ways of the west a bit better than the Chinaman.  Standard issue partnership ensues, and Chan's trademark martial arts mayhem accompanies the duo.

The biggest thing that kept me from wanting to see this movie in the previews was the presence of Owen Wilson.  You just cannot tell me that the biggest name the studio could rustle up for a white-guy partner in a Jackie Chan movie is Owen Wilson!!  After the success of "Rush Hour"--which made over $100 million alone, more than all of Jackie's other US releases COMBINED--you would think that they could sign up somebody famous.  But, this is why I do not currently work in the movies!!  As it is, Wilson is actually pretty good, and his good ol' boy cowboy-speak works well with Jackie in this movie, and most importantly...their chemistry is actually pretty good.  It doesn't hurt that he has some great lines, and his timing is damned good in this movie.  Unfortunately for the studio that produced the film, I don't think having the name Owen Wilson on the marquee will help sell more tickets than "Chris Tucker" did.

And, speaking of great lines, I can't think of the last time so many extras got so many great things to say.  In particular, the Indian tribe that Jackie's character lives with during the first portion of the film was fucking hilarious.  So were the settlers that kept referring to other Chinamen in the film as Jews (I thought it was funny, but one guy took himself and his kid out of the theater after that joke), crack references to Texans made by Roy's gang, and other racial remarks on the behalf of whites, Indians and Chinamen.

Plus, the action--while not top-notch by Chan's standards--is entertaining and there are a couple of cool moves that Chan puts on the bad guys.  But Jackie is, I believe, 44 years old now, and one wonders during this movie how many more of these he can do before settling into courtroom drama movies or mental ward patient comedies.  There are clearly stuntmen used in a few scenes that require some serious derring-do; if you watch some of Chan's older movies, he is the stuntman in every scene.  After watching Tom Cruise do most of his own work in "M:I-2," you will feel a bit sorry for Chan, the man that really pioneered the idea of doing all of your own stunts.

But, laughs and action aside, the plot for this movie is pretty weak, and Monica, Bridgette and I all agreed afterwards that the last half-hour takes way too long to complete.  (I can not honestly remember the last ending that really satisfied me besides the ending for "The Usual Suspects."  Quite possibly the best ending for a movie ever.)  Kid Rock's song "Cowboy"—while a fine song in its own right--gets played in parts three times during this movie, and I know there have been other songs made about cowboys and the west; I know the song is a piece of shit, but why not use "Wild Wild West" from the mid-80s?  And, is this a kids movie?  I didn't think so—judging from the sheer number of "Deuce Bigalow"-style toilet humor cracks made by Wilson's character--but, I think a third of my audience played on the 10-and-under soccer teams for the leagues in Centreville.  I think some parents were clearly disturbed by the number of shits and sonofabitches that were laced together in this movie.

Middle of the road for me (rental for Monica and Bridgette), but Jackie has done and can do much better than he does here.

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

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 bad...man, 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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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09