Anthony's Film Review
Shanghai Noon (2000)
Two memorable actors in a clever fusion of martial arts and Westerns...
Martial arts action star Jackie Chan wrote a book about his life called "My Life In Action." One of the photographs in the book is of him as a little boy wearing a cowboy costume. Later, I saw an interview with him on the entertainment news show Access Hollywood where he talked about his childhood dream of being a cowboy. This, of course, aired just as the movie Shanghai Noon was released. This is the movie that allowed Chan to make his childhood dream come true while still allowing him to show off the skills he is known around the world for. The result is a film that not only combines two genres but blends them nicely into one seamless picture.
Chan's character in the movie is Chon Wang (a homage to a certain Hollywood legend), an Imperial Guard at the Forbidden City in China. When Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) is kidnapped and taken to the United States, he and some other guards travel to the U.S. in search of her. They take a train to Nevada but find a gang of train robbers on board, including Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson). Trouble begins when one of the robbers shoots one of the guards, who is Wang's uncle. The laughs also begin, because Roy, who originally planned it to be just a robbery without killing, frantically tries to stop his comrades from doing any more damage.
In the end, Wang has to travel to Nevada by foot. On the way, he gets himself into a kung fu battle with some Native Americans. Afterwards, he is taken to the tribe where he wakes up naked with a beautiful woman, which the tribe cheers about in a funny scene. Meanwhile, in another hilarious scene, Roy is buried in the dirt with a vulture pecking on his ears. So begins the unlikely alliance between a cowboy and an Imperial Guard. The chemistry between the two characters is just very funny and touching. What is also funny is how Wang learns to be a cowboy himself.
I will admit that, on the first viewing, there is not as much Jackie Chan action as in his other action flicks. But it's OK. There is still plenty of it to please the martial arts fan, and there is good material from the Western genre. The scenes combining the two are done well because they are mixed in harmony, not a discordant combination that is unpleasant to the eye. Throw in humor that makes fun of the characters and you have a film that is quite entertaining.
This movie doesn't just repeat what Jackie Chan has done. Rather, it gives him a chance to do another thing he's good at: acting. Jackie Chan is funny, not just with martial arts, but with anything else besides it. He's a comic actor and so is Owen Wilson. Both of these guys put a smile on your face because they look like they're having fun on the set. And like many other Chan movies, there are hilarious bloopers after the film ends, including one with a flatulent Owen Wilson.
Shanghai Noon is an original movie that still manages to make people laugh. It works mainly for one reason: the right choices for the starring buddy roles.
For more information about Shanghai Noon, visit the Internet Movie Database.
In addition, check out my review of Shanghai Knights.