Director: Tom Dey
Cast: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Xander Berkeley, Walton Goggins
Screenplay: Miles Millar, Alfred Gough
110 mins. Rated PG-13 for action violence, some drug humor, language and sensuality.
Today, let’s look back on Shanghai Noon, a marginally forgotten action/comedy/western from 2000. I just learned that plans are being put in place to bring Shanghai Dawn, a new installment, to cinemas in the near-future. Is it worth it? Does it hold up? Let’s find out.
Chon Wang (Jackie Chan, Rush Hour, Kung Fu Panda 2) is in the American West in search of the missing Chinese Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu, TV’s Elementary, Kill Bill Vol. 1). There is one problem: he keeps running into the infamous and underwhelming outlaw Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson, Midnight in Paris, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) who has been left to die by his newest recruit Wallace (Walton Goggins, TV’s Justified, Django Unchained), an unhinged fool of a man. After a forced friendship is built, Chon and Roy team up to save the princess while they evade Marshal Nathan Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley, TV’s Salem, Terminator 2: Judgment Day), who is hunting O’Bannon and “The Shanghai Kid”.
Shanghai Noon is a fun little excursion that with several flaws but a likable comedic duo. The chemistry between Chan and Wilson is pretty solid, even if the conceit that brings them together has no reason. I don’t believe that an outlaw like Roy O’Bannon would just decide to help out Chon without getting anything back. I just wasn’t convinced by his motives here, especially hearing how quickly he would sell Chan’s character out. Once they do become partners, though, that doesn’t really matter. They are a likable team nonetheless.
The villains are less than strong, however. Both villains are extremely predictable, unmotivated, and unconvincing, in no part due to the performances, though, but how they are written.
Director Tom Dey (Failure to Launch, Marmaduke) gets this film tonally right in a lot of ways, and I can’t fault him for the uninspired style, as he hasn’t really proven to be above par as a filmmaker. Shanghai Noon also runs a bit too long, especially near the end. There are sequences involving the attempts at rescuing Pei Pei that feel like they aren’t going anywhere. That being said, the choice to add classic rock music to the score really helps keep the lighthearted tone moving.
Shanghai Noon is far from perfect, but western action/comedies are not an easy thing to do. As it stands, the chemistry from the strong two leads carry this film very well, and it’s easy to overlook some of the film’s more blaring faults.
-Kyle A. Goethe