2003
Rated: PG-13 for violence, mild language, and sexual referenced
Genre: Action/Adventure and Comedy
Directed By: David Dobkin
Running Time: 1:47
Review by: Felix Vasquez Jr.
Review Date: 6/13/04
SHANGHAI KNIGHTS

 

The numbskull duo from the bland action yarn "Shanghai Noon" return this time for yet another vehicle sequel "Shanghai Knights". This time we meet Chon Wang's baby sister the delectable Chon Lin played by the delicious Fann Wong whose palace is stormed by imperial guards and the evil Lord Rathbone. While fighting off the henchmen, Lin witnesses her father die at the hands of Rathbone and she's rendered unconscious in time for them to escape without a skirmish. She now treks to London to track down Rathbone but news of her father's death has been sent to Chon Wang who is now a sheriff in a Western town. He's given the box that tells of his father's death and decides to avenge him by confronting Rathbone and rescuing his sister, but along the way meets up with Roy O'Bannon who volunteers to go with his partner to London and help avenge his father, besides, as he says, "He hears London is ass soup". Odd modern slang for a cowboy in the late 1800's but I digress. So, they travel to London and follow Rathbone with the help of a local Scotland yard investigator Artie, and a young boy who helps them in their journey.

I was not a fan of the original film, I thought it was yet another bland vehicle for Wilson and Chan who seem to only be charismatic and funny when paired with a complete opposite. This sequel didn't prove to be anything new or innovative as well; it was just an endless sequence of comedic dialogue, fight scene, comedic dialogue, fight scene, and so on, so it's obvious I felt jumbled by the sloppy story and cheap plot devices. Chan, whose home films are great but continues making terrible American films once again plays the same character but as a cowboy, and Wilson plays the same off the wall sly character he always plays except this time he's a cowboy. The two actors have little chemistry together and the trite sometimes cheesy dialogue doesn't help matters much.

There's even a really un-funny sequence involving a banquet and a food called "spotted dick". Yes, you know where this is heading, and so did I, and it was such a painfully obvious gag, I never once laughed. "Shanghai Knights" a sequel minus Lucy Liu doesn't have a lot in the brains department or the storytelling department, it's cliché so the writers rely solely on Wilson's charisma, and Chan's martial arts because there's an acrobatic scene practically every ten minutes which gets sickening, but you can't expect an original buddy comedy these days that hasn't already been done.

Director David Dobkin creates a light breezy but yet again bland yarn that fails to bring apart
anything new except throw in a lot of cultural references and obvious gags that's been done to death: "Just be glad I didn't invest the gold in that automobile industry," O' Bannon declared, "Like that will ever be big." Ha ha. Very cute, a joke that's been done a hundred times over and isn't funny anymore, then the two just happen to make up and fall into things that are little jabs at literature and history.

O'Bannon calls himself Sherlock Holmes when he disguises himself at a banquet, convenient for such an occasion, and then they arrive at the Whitechapel district in London when the Jack the Ripper murders happen to be taking place. And boy are we exposed to anachronisms galore and so many sloppy historic inaccuracies that it's not funny; Jack the Ripper is on the loose in London despite the fact he didn't start killing until 1888, and the date of the film is 1887, the young street thug who follows the two to London is a young Charlie Chaplin despite the fact he isn't born until two years later, and supposedly the writers allude to Chaplin being inspired by Wang's fighting skills to add to his future physical comedy routine, yet Chaplin really was inspired by Vaudevillian performers, and practically created the art form of physical comedy; in the end, they attempt another clever jab at future developments as they speak of the new Hollywood and the new art called movies being introduced despite the fact the first film studio wasn't built until 1893, but then, I'm just nitpicking ain't I?

Wang is given a puzzle box by his father which he must decode to discover the message when he's ready to discover its meaning-- or at least until the end of the movie for an obligatory heartfelt moment. Either way, it's quite a cheesy plot device. A plot device used during the progression of the Chon Wang character is the fact he must decode in order to get a message, but he must have patience. I never have patience when doing those stupid puzzles, I'll never get a message.

While Shanghai Knights isn't a masterpiece I did actually enjoy it more than I did "Shanghai Noon" simply because the tepid story is helped by the great fight sequences and Owen Wilson's one-liners. Wilson is the inept American character in a cast of Brits and Chinese characters, but he's not dumb and often times seems smarter than everyone else. His character Roy O'Bannon is obvious but likeably obvious, and never obnoxious. New addition, Singapore actress Fann Wong fills in for Lucy Liu and has a lot of charisma, a lot more than Liu's character did and becomes a welcome addition to the team helping to keep Wilson and Chan from ruining this completely and keeps her incredible beauty, and enjoyable character on the screen long enough to enjoy the film.

She's a perfect polar opposite to Chan and Wilson, and is not used as a tool but is really an actual character. There's even a hilarious running gag where she's confronted with Jack the Ripper, a scene I won't give away. Wong manages to outdo most of Wilson and Chan's scenes and steals many of the paired action scenes with her beauty, charisma and knack for sheer acting ability. Many of the fight scenes act as cradles for the lagging dialogue and feature some rather interesting sequences including Chan's fight with guards involving vases, the hilarious sequence involving Wilson being held over the water as Chan tries to save him and fight off the henchmen, and the inevitably fight scene between Rathbone and Wang as they duel it out on the rafters in the clock tower. Anyway, we're introduced to a more original villain than the first film Lord Nelson Rathbone, a jab at Basil Rathbone who played Sherlock Holmes, Rathbone the resident bland British villain is supposedly deemed ruthless and is a master fencer, he even extinguishes of Chon Wang's father by stabbing him in the gut, yet when confronted with the two which he has bound and gagged, he puts them in a slow, intricate death trap.

Calling Dr. Evil! Here's where logic implies but is never touched upon, instead of him simply impaling the two he has them hung upside down on a gurney to be lowered slowly into a vat of water and then he leaves. Once again, Calling Dr. Evil. I can just hear him now: "I have an idea. I'm going to place them in an easily escapable situation involving an overly elaborate and exotic death. Begin the unnecessarily slow-moving dipping mechanism!", so we only get to see Rathbone's true fencing skills up until the final climactic fight of the film as he and Wang fight aboard a rafter, a high rafter, a high rafter in a clock tower, a high rafter in a clock tower hung by thin rope... hmm, do I sense a stunt coming on Mr. Chan? Nah! I'm just paranoid. So, obviously we have the happy ending which will undoubtedly lead to "Shanghai Surprise"... or "Shanghai Dawn", or "Look who's Shanghai-ing". Either way it's a sequel we can do without.

Not a masterpiece, but still better than the first film and more entertaining. While the plot lags, dialogue drags, and plausibility lessens, you wonder when these lackluster Chan and Wilson vehicles will end.

 

 

 


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