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  Shanghai Noon East West Chan Is Best
Year: 2000
Director: Tom Dey
Stars: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Rongguang Yu, Cui Ya Hi, Eric Chen, Jason Connery, Walton Goggins, Adrien Dorval, Rafael Báez, Stacy Grant, Kate Luyben, Henry O, Russell Badger, Simon Baker, Sam Simon
Genre: Western, Comedy, ActionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 2 votes)
Review: In 19th Century China, The Forbidden City, Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) is one of the Imperial Guard, relegated to menial tasks but in awe of the Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) who is having problems with her duty. That duty being to marry the Emperor's son, which she does not fancy at all, so when an English official (Jason Connery) offers her a chance to escape she jumps at it. A shocked Chon catches sight of her fleeing and picks up the book she drops, vowing to bring her back as he feels responsible and thinks she has been kidnapped. But what do you know? That's exactly what has happened...

Jackie Chan long harboured ambitions to make a kung fu Western, but it took until his newfound Hollywood fame in the late nineties before he had the chance to fulfill that dream. There had been martial arts Westerns before, with The Stranger and the Gunfighter the most obvious example (one of the characters here is named after Lee Van Cleef, a star of that movie), though Jet Li had perhaps stolen Jackie's thunder with Once Upon a Time in China and America, but Shanghai Noon (geddit?) proved to be welcome across the world for its easygoing charm and frankly none-too-taxing adventure. Much of that was down to the co-star Jackie had been teamed with.

Following the formula of his hit Rush Hour movies, the co-star was very American indeed for the best culture clash opportunities, and in this case it was Owen Wilson as aspiring outlaw Roy O'Bannon who served up the mismatched buddy movie business with Chan. They worked together very well, and felt more authentic as a comedy pair than Chan had been with Chris Tucker where they had often seemed to be operating in their own individual movies. Chon doesn't meet O'Bannon until he travels to the Wild West in hot pursuit of the Princess, where they encounter one another as Roy is trying to rob the train he is on; his latest henchman (Walton Goggins) shoots Chon's uncle, which gets their relationship off to a rocky start.

After some action moves on the train which lands them both stranded in the middle of nowhere, Roy is buried up to his neck in the sand but the grudgeful Chon refuses to dig him out, so to continue this antagonism sends him in the wrong direction when he should be aiming for Carson City where he thinks the Princess is. There's no getting away from the episodic nature of this, as quickly it resembles more of a series of sketches rather than a smoothly flowing narrative, but given they were trying to make the audience laugh you could forgive them that. So Chan ends up being chased by Indians, then accidentally marrying one (Brandon Merrill) who becomes a sort of guardian angel whenever he's in trouble he cannot escape from alone.

Then he meets O'Bannon again, who we're supposed to believe dug himself out of the ground with the chopsticks Chon placed in his mouth (at least I think we are), and they keep getting thrown together by circumstances until they have to admit they actually like each other and join forces to save the damsel in distress (Liu doesn't get much to do here). It's not uproariously funny, but it is likeable in a shaggy dog story kind of way, and both Chan and Wilson's charm amounted to a most engaging double act even if Miles Millar and Alfred Gough's script relentlessly goes for the easiest targets of humour. For some Chan fans this means the martial arts is not as plentiful as in his purely Hong Kong productions (this was a combination of Hollywood and Hong Kong filmmaking), and the stunts were not as wild, though at least Jackie got more to do in that department than in his first Rush Hour outing, but if you concentrated on the comedy then you'd likely appreciate the fun. It was also very nicely photographed. Music by Randy Edelman.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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