- Directed by David Dobkin
- February 7, 2003 (US)
Chon reunites with Roy and heads off to London to retrieve the imperial Seal of China and to avenge the death of his father.
As sequels go Shanghai Knights is not a bad follow up to Shanghai Noon but it lacks some of the magic and energetic fun of the original. While it is a Western in the barest sense of the word it moves much more into a Hong Kong martial arts film than it does a Western with martial arts mixed in. For me the latter was a very entertaining element of the original creating something that helped it stand out among other films. The former is a dime a dozen with better executed examples out there.
At the start of the story apparently Chon’s (Jackie Chan) girlfriend Princess Pei-Pei has left him. Why? Don’t know but it nicely explains why Lucy Liu isn’t in this movie. Admittedly her character being a competent fighter and being able to help out would have really defied comedic logic, but her character could’ve helped navigate high society which is what our heroes need to do once they arrive in London more than actually fight.
I’m not sure why Liu was not in this one but whenever a significant character from a previous film goes MIA it’s very noticeable. Re-casting for only a few scenes in order to explain their absence is more than acceptable but we just got Chon being a sad sack and checking the daily stagecoach for her. A man who journeyed from one side of the world to the other becomes a sad sack? I had trouble buying that.
Donnie Yen joins the action this time around as Wu Chow who is the illegitimate brother of the current Chinese emperor. His character was far more interesting and probably more significant in the overall plot than the 10th in line to the throne Lord Nelson Rathbone (Aidan Gillen). Unfortunately Donnie Yen as Wu Chow didn’t get nearly enough screen time. He basically popped in every now and then to act impatient with Lord Rathbone and say what amounted to “Hurry up!”
There are some historical jokes such as our main duo encountering Charlie Chaplin (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) as a thief on the streets of London and encountering the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Tom Fisher). Interestingly they don’t quite drop it on you right away that it is either of those two. Charlie Chaplin is revealed pretty close to the end and you don’t get Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s full name used until he along with Chon and Roy (Owen Wilson) are awarded knighthoods.
This aspect though becomes a bit of a running gag that at times is run into the ground. It is cute but strains credulity to keep running into historical figures or make historical jokes. It is a fine line to walk that they cannot always manage well.
Shanghai Knights is entertaining enough and the jokes are executed well enough The major issue for me is that the relationship between Chon and Roy is reset to nearly the beginning of the last film. Rehashing emotional journeys is never good and makes little sense in connected narratives. It makes the second film a redressed version of the first and is indicative of no creativity.
The action is good. Wilson is a little more comedic in his stuff and Jackie Chan does his usual highly stylized fight scenes. Tossed into the fray is Chon’s sister Chon Lin (Fann Wong) who exists as much to kick butt as to be the object of Roy’s affections in order to make Chon uncomfortable.
For fans of Westerns or even martial arts movies Shanghai Knights is an entertaining but ultimately forgettable film. For the general movie goer I think you’ll probably even skip this one. If you come across it and watch it you won’t be disappointed but there isn’t much worth to seek it out.