Shanghai Noon (2000)

Synopsis:  Princess Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu) is kidnapped (surprise!) and taken to America.  Guards of the Forbidden City are quickly dispatched to bring her back – and promptly get either killed or lost.  Jackie Chan (who allowed her to leave in the fist place) tags along out of remorse and a sense of duty.  Once in the US, he meets up with a young up-and-coming outlaw by the name of Roy O’Bannon (he’s got his initials carved into the handles of his guns – ROB, get it?) who is the main reason that the rescue team got lost in the first place.  Together they search for the missing princess and a hoard of Chinese loot.  Cue lots of fish-out-of-water hilarity, culture clashes galore, mutual dislike turning into buddy-buddy lovingness and eventual respect for each other’s nation and way of life…hang on, I’m getting a distinct feeling of déjà vu here… 

Cal's Review: The inclusion of Owen Wilson should have made this one a hell of a lot better than Rush Hour – and it certainly is a lot funnier.  In fact, the humour’s the best aspect of the film – Lucy Liu seems to be on sedatives for the most part, and there seems to be no reason for Jackie to be in it at all except as a foil for Owen Wilson’s (admittedly funny) patter.  The problem is that the fights are sooooo dull.  Nowhere do you get the adrenaline rush that Jackie provides so often in his Hong Kong productions.  The scene where Jackie fights the Native Americans includes a section where they hurl their tomahawks at him, he throws them back at the Indians, and they catch them effortlessly and continue their assault.  While this may provide a chuckle for those not familiar with Jackie’s Hong Kong work, anyone who’s seen Project A part II will cringe at the blatant recycling of a classic sight gag.  And sadly, nothing else that Jackie does in this one is really worthy of note.  He even gets upstaged by his own horse.  It’s a crying shame, as this could have been so much better. 

Score: 6.5 /10

Debbie's Review:  Let me start by dating myself irrevocably. I grew up on westerns…they were everywhere. On TV, at the theaters, in comic books and pulp novels…I love westerns. So I was waiting with baited breath when I first heard that my hero, Jackie Chan, was making a western named, of all things “Shanghai Noon”, in a clever title parody of the Gary Cooper classic “High Noon.” I wasn’t disappointed. I loved it. What a treat to see Jackie on the big screen in sweeping mountain vistas with “Marlborough” music playing in the back ground. Yee-haw! 

Disney, which owned the distribution rights, lost their minds and released it the same weekend as the highly touted Mission Impossible:2. Nevertheless, Shanghai Noon made over $50 million domestically, which isn’t at all bad for putting an easy-going comic horse-opera against a high-tech guns-and-babes Tom Cruise vehicle. Disney didn’t do Jackie any favors in the promotion department, either, so I think Shanghai Noon was a surprising success. 

I think Jackie and Owen Wilson make a great team: they are opposite enough in temperament to compliment each other, but have an obvious respect for each other that shows on the screen.  I loved Owen’s whiney new-age cowboy character, and his anachronistic one-liners were memorably hilarious. The Chan-Wilson chemistry might not have the sizzle of the Chan-Tucker chemistry, but it also lacks the hard-edged nastiness of Tucker’s constant racial put-downs. 

The action in Shanghai Noon isn’t its greatest appeal, to be honest, although it does have some really fine moments: in the classic barroom brawl scene Jackie delivers a neat series of little kicks to his opponent, and finishes off with a beautiful roundhouse kick to the head that just made me sigh with satisfaction. In another highly inventive fight scene he adapts a traditional Chinese rope-fighting style by tying a horseshoe to the end…ow! that’s gotta hurt! But for the most part, the fight scenes are once again filmed too close to see all the action, and are too chopped up (which, according to the behind-the-scenes footage is Jackie’s own doing!) 

I think the most fun for me in watching Shanghai Noon is the obvious love that first time director Tom Dey has for the classic western. He throws in every cliché from every B-movie John Wayne and Gary Cooper ever made, with huge doses of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, topped off with a dash of Clint Eastwood spaghetti western. You got hangin’s, barroom brawls, brothels, wild Injuns (that say “How!"), and at one point the sheriff’s henchmen actually aim their six-shooters at Jackie’s boot-toes and play a game of  “Let’s make the Kid dance!”  I almost choked on a juju-be at that one! Coupled with this is Dey’s obvious respect for Jackie’s movies: he recycles a nifty hatchet-trick from Project A, and the jump-through-the handcuffs trick from Who Am I. I think that since this movie was aimed at main-stream American audiences, this is a great way to let viewers enjoy a brilliant piece of Jackie’s comic repertoire that they would not otherwise get a look at: very few Americans have seen or will ever see Project A or most of Jackie’s other older movies. 

I think if this movie has flaws (and it does) it’s the female characters. Lucy Liu is pretty much wasted as Princess Pei Pei, and Jackie’s Indian wife (played by rodeo champion Brandon Merrill) is only slightly more important to the story than his horse, surfacing when she is needed to get the boys out of a corner the writers have placed them in, and then mysteriously disappearing until she’s needed again. Indeed, there is a delicious irony in the scene in which O'Bannon is telling Falling Leaves that her Chinese husband comes from "a very male-dominated society." But bad guys Roger Yuan and Xander Berkely, playing psychotic killer sheriff Nathan Van Kleef, (in homage to actor Lee Van Kleef who squinted and sneered his way through countless spaghetti westerns of the 60s) are just perfect. 

Another flaw that got my goat was a theme running through the film that I call East meets West, and West is Best. Several times O’Bannon tells Chon Wang “The sun may rise where you come from but this is where it sets,” and at the end, Wang finally realizes the superiority of the western man’s way of thinking and decides to stay in the US. This second kind of chauvinistic attitude didn’t really set too well with me either, I must admit. 

But all in all, I think this movie is a great way to kill a couple of hours, or even more if you get the feature-packed DVD. 


Reader Reviews

Bruno Chen's Review: It is a funny movie but very good the punch´s and kick´s of jackie is a powerful

Score: 10/10

CHANFAN's Review: Good movie. But like most of Jackie's Hollywood movies, not so great at action. But for some reason i like this movie. It has some good settings, great humor and it really brings out the Jackie Chan charm. After Chris Tucker, Owen Wilson may be the best on-screen duo with chan. Its definitly not his best movie, but it is still worth wathing.

Score: 7/10

Drunken Go Player's  Review: Jackie Chan's another Hollywood movie.  I should say I enjoyed the comedy of this film.  However, I was kind of disappointed by the fighting scenes.  They seem kind of slow compare to other Jackie Chan films.  Also, it seems to me that the actions are out of beats.  I love it when Jackie's moves kind of falls to the right beat.  Like a song.  This movie didn't give me any of those pleasures.

Owen Wilson is one of the best Jackie's partners ever.  He is funny, he can act, and most of all he speaks English that I can understand easily.

Over all, it's a good comedy.  But not an average JC action film.

Score: 7/10

Toadess2002's Review: I thought this movie was hallarious i enjoyed it a lot seeing i am a martial
arts fan (and learn martial arts myself) i thought it was really good.....

Score: 10/10

Homer J's Review: I have to admit, I am quite surprised by the amount of negativity surrounding the reaction to this film. I loved it!

As already mentioned Owen Wilson is a much easier to digest as a foil for Chan and vice-versa, some lovely comedy moments here.

Yes, the fighting is no where near as good as his HK stuff, but the horseshoe?rope fight more than made up for me. I had never seen Jackie do this sort of weapon fight before and it blew me away! Beat that Jet Li!

What really annoyed me was the horrendous CGI work that was done on the train sequence where Jackie jumps from one coach to another - absolutely horrible!

However, despite its obvious flaws, the film is so charming, infectious, warm and colourful that I couldn't help getting caught up in the atmosphere.

Oh yeah, I also loved his gun spin at the end, typical Jackie trademark. Take something simple and worked to death and make something new and utterly brilliant out of it, and yet still make it look simple!

Roll on Shanghai Knights with Donnie Yen - woo hoo! I can't wait!

Score: 8/10

Amy's Review: This is my fav. of all Jackie's Hollywood movies. Sure the action and fights are a not the 'classic' Jackie, but face it, he IS getting older. If he gets audiences used to this style of action, he can keep making movies for a few more decades. He has been quoted to say that if he can no longer do his own fighting and stunts that he will retire.
Back on track, one of my fav. scenes out of many I liked was the scenes with the drinking game! I should be getting a copy of this in the mail in a few days!!

Score: 10/10

Ojje's Review: This is a rubbish movie the action is horrible my dad thinks its funny but it is boring. Chan's fighting skills were just as good as a person who has never been in a fight at all. Total garbage don't see this movie because it is not the real Jackie Chan.

Score: 2/10

Brendan's Review: This is not a great movie, but is quite funny. It's a little different, and Owen Wilson is quite amusing. Be prepared for something a little different, and you'll have some fun with this one. And be ready to be singing Kid Rock's ""Cowboy"" after you walk out of the cinema!

Score: 6.5/10

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