I originally saw Shanghai Noon a couple of years back, and was impressed with the film. Not really because of the plot, but more because of the surprisingly impressive pairing of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. They both seemed to be on the same page, and this “buddy cop” type film worked pretty well because of it.
However, the movie itself wasn’t really that great, so when the sequel, Shanghai Knights, came out, I was only somewhat interested. I did want to see if the duo could work again, but I was a little worried that the movie would be only okay, as the first one was.
So, when I finally rented it on DVD, I was a little hesitant. Could the writers come up with something a little better to further showcase their dynamic duo’s chemistry, or would it just have been better if it had ended at Noon?
The friendship between Jackie and Owen shines through again in this sequel. They seem to have actually gotten closer since the first film, and are able to play off each other even better than they did in the first film. That, by itself, makes the movie a worthy sequel – if the second film can enhance the relationship between it’s main characters, and do so without ruining what the first film has created, that’s the definition of a good sequel.
Another quality needed in a sequel is to introduce a few new characters that will hopefully become as memorable as the main characters. This film manages to accomplish that as well, by bringing in John’s sister Lin (played by Fann Wong), who is able to enhance the film by introducing a bit of sexual tension between her and Roy, while at the same time becoming the female Jackie Chan (in terms of martial arts) in the film..
They also do a bit of trickery, by introducing characters that the audience already knows for other things, such as street urchin Charlie Chaplin and Scotland Yard detective “Artie” Doyle (who the audience remembers as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes). By doing this, they make the characters familiar right from the start, and get the audience involved in the film from the get-go, if only to see what “Artie” and Charlie will do.
The plot, thankfully, seems to have been worked on a bit more than in the original. The first film just seemed to be worked around Jackie’s fighting style, with Owen’s humor thrown in for kicks. This time around, there is an actually decent plot, if a little far-fetched, and it makes the film as a whole that much better.
While they do tend to still throw in more Jackie Chan fight scenes than required, the movie isn’t as centered around them as much as the first film. The only real standout oddity of Shanghai Knights was it’s music choices, and they, while not quite fitting with the scenes, are somewhat typical of the quirkiness of these characters – they try to fit into the stereo-typical characters, but they just don’t quite do it…and they’re proud of it.
The special effects, typical to what we’ve come to expect in Jackie Chan films, are well done, and you can really see the dedication Jackie has for film business when he’s doing them. Since he’s already broken every bone in his body performing different stunts in the past, it’s just amazing to watch him keep getting back up and sticking to the trademark he’s become most famous for – doing all his own stunts.
There is one instance where wires are evident from his body movements, but aside from that solo error, it’s impossible to tell if he’s using them or not. That is one thing that makes this film better than, say, Bulletproof Monk (2003). In that film, the stunts were so over the top (not to mention somewhat cheesy), the viewer could instantly recognize their falsity.
Jackie’s fight scenes, on the other hand, have more realism inherent in them, and tend to rely on what he can actually do. True, it is exaggerated, but since he performs all the stunts, he take such a personal interest in his fight scenes they almost become movies unto themselves, and are always a thrill to watch.
It seems Jackie has found his niche. He teams with a comic partner and combines that with his fighting scenes. It must be working, since this is now his second sequel in that genre. But, he can’t do it alone, and Owen Wilson seems to be his best match to date, even beating out Chris Tucker of the Rush Hour films.
Shanghai Noon, unfortunately, didn’t really have much to back the two of them up, so came out as only okay. But, Shanghai Knights seems to have learned from the mistakes of it’s predecessor, and acted to fix them. This film not only gives you the dynamic pairing of Jackie and Owen, but also manages to throw in a decent plot as well as some other memorable characters into the mix.
This is definitely one sequel that beats the original. It’s been done before by a sequel (Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Aliens (1986)) – but not too often.