The comedic, action-packed western escapades of Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) return to the silver screen in “Shanghai Knights.” After taming the wild west in “Shanghai Noon,” the unlikely duo now finds itself in a situation of global proportions.
Wang’s father, the guard to the Imperial Chinese seal, is murdered by a mysterious gang of Chinese Boxer rebels. The rebels steal the imperial seal, which is symbolic of the empire’s strength, and flee China for London. Wang’s sister, Lin (Hollywood newcomer Fann Wong), follows her father’s murderers, seeking both to unravel the building conspiracy and to avenge her father’s death.
All the while, Wang is blithely enjoying his career as a sheriff in Nevada. He bides his time hanging new wanted posters and discussing the famed Roy O’Bannon adventure novels with his half-wit deputy. Upon receiving a telegram from Lin, Wang leaves his post as sheriff and departs for New York to find Roy and his money. In a somewhat humorous reunion, Wang discovers that his former partner has not only squandered all the gold they found in “Noon,” but that Roy is working as a waiter and a gigolo. After leaving for London, the film’s duration focuses on Wang’s, Lin’s and Roy’s humorous escapades to foil the evil incumbent monarch Rathbone’s (Aiden Gillen, “The Final Curtain”) scheme.
As in his countless other films, Chan employs his martial arts expertise not only to leave audiences in awe but also to humor them. He uses everything from lemons to the arms of statues at Madame Toussaud’s to fend off attackers, but he still maintains technical excellence. Fann Wang is similarly dazzling in her display of martial arts prowess.
Chan and Wilson’s chemistry is not phenomenal, but it functions rather well within the script. The writers make clear both characters’ idiocy, and the resulting brand of comedy is extremely goofy and admittedly entertaining. It’s hard expect much more from a teaming of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, but the filmmakers manage to use the quirkiness of both characters effectively enough for some side-splitting moments.
The film tempers Chan and Wilson’s slapstick humor with a slew of funny historical and cultural allusions, all of which only enhance the movie’s comedic effect. From a tongue-in-cheek look into the life of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to a timely encounter with Jack the Ripper, the film brings to life London’s history and makes the film all the more enjoyable to those who appreciate its significance.
For what it’s worth, “Shanghai Knights” is a pleasant moviegoing experience. It knowingly operates within its own boundaries and showcases some amusing comedy and innovative martial arts displays. Chan and Wilson have proven themselves to be an effectively-foolish duo, and those who like their blend of comedy will surely enjoy what “Shanghai Knights” offers.