Shanghai Knights’ paper-thin plot follows Chon “John Wayne” Wang (Jackie Chan) and sidekick Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) to England where they search for the man who killed Chon’s estranged father. With the help of Chon’s sister Lin (Fanne Wong), they uncover a plot to destroy the British royal family by the sinister Rathbone (Aidan Gillen). Knights is a virtual masterpiece by Rush Hour standards, insofar as the humor derived from its ethnic buddy pairing is equal opportunity and deliriously old-fashioned. Helping matters is the 1887 setting, though that still doesn’t excuse why Roy continues to talk like he’s about to catch a wave or why a British street urchin is referred to as the Little Tramp. Shanghai Knights actually features what could be some of Chan’s more impressive moves, specifically his battle with British police inside a revolving door and a fight sequence that tips its hat to Singin’ in the Rain. A modicum of empowerment has been afforded to the film’s token femme fatale but Wilson’s jokes still work on a success ratio of 1-to-20. Chan, of course, fares considerably better tearing things apart, but even though his character is clearly defined as Roy’s superior, he still has to play the uber-surfer’s little bitch. Hollywood has yet to realize that Chan’s stellar fighting abilities entitle him to something more than Gilligan status and ultimately allow his character to negate one of the film’s opening lines: “You Chinese are very progressive.”
- David Dobkin
- Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
- Jackie Chan, Own Wilson, Fann Wong, Donnie Yen, Aaron Johnson, Aidan Gillen, Tom Fisher, Constantine Gregory, Gemma Jones, Alison King
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