Shanghai Noon Review
By Joe Lozito
It's 1881, and Jackie Chan's Chinese Imperial Guard, Chon Wang (if you understood the title pun, you'll like his name too), walks into a saloon in a small Western town. Surrounded by all manner of scruffy cowboys who would make Clint Eastwood's day, Chan's only recourse is to timidly flash a toothy grin. The cowboys are not amused. The audience, however, is.
It's this kind of playful, almost self-deprecating, charm that has made Jackie Chan an action star. Well, that and the fact that he does his own stunts. But Mr. Chan is not as young as he used to be. He still does his own stunts, but those are no longer the centerpiece of his films. In "Shanghai Noon", he falls back on a more standard style of Martial Arts choreography that has become popular courtesy of "The Matrix" and Jet Li.
In 1998's "Rush Hour", Mr. Chan found a motor-mouthed partner in Chris Tucker. Now, "Shanghai Noon" follows up that formula by teaming Mr. Chan with Owen Wilson (The Minus Man, Armageddon). Mr. Wilson makes a fine compliment for Mr. Chan. His character, would-be desperado Roy O'Bannon, is a pre-surfer dude surfer dude. As scary as it may sound, Roy teaches Chon the ropes of making his way around the old West. And plenty of old Western movie conventions get a gentle ribbing throughout the course of the film.
The messy, convoluted plot has to do with a kidnapped princess (Lucy Liu) that Chan is determined to save from a really bad baddie who in running some sort of Chinese slavery ring. Not everything in the plot makes sense, particularly an odd and convenient subplot involving Native Americans, but it's probably best not to think too much about it. This movie is not about plot (which is a shame because there might have been a good story to tell here), it's about fun Martial Arts action. And Mr. Chan as usual, delivers. Service with a smile.