DVDSleuth.com is your source for daily Blu-ray Disc & DVD news and reviews
Shanghai Noon/Shanghai Knights
2-Movie Collection (2000/2003)
Touchstone Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 5/7/2013
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 5/10/2013
Despite the fact that he won an honorary Oscar this year, I don't think that many view Hal Needham as a visionary. While he was a pioneer in the world of stuntwork, specifically stunts involving cars, the director of Burt Reynolds' classics like Smokey and the Bandit and Hooper typically isn't thought of as a great filmmaker. Still, Needham or someone in his camp had the wherewithall to Jackie Chan in The Cannonball Run in 1982. (Although this wasn't Chan's first American film, it was his first big-budget one.) (Chan also appeared in The Cannonball Run II.) Despite this exposure, it would be another 15 years until Chan began regularly appearing in American productions. After his "break out" role in 1998's Rush Hour, Chan's star really rose in Hollywood, but it was clearly a challenge finding the right roles for him. Two of the most clever uses of Chan's unique talents came in the films Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights, which are now available on a double-feature Blu-ray Disc.
Shanghai Noon opens in 19th Century China, where we see that Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) is a member of the Emperor's Royal Guard. He witnesses Princes Pei Pei (Lucy Liu), on whom he has a crush, being kidnapped. When it's decided that a group should travel to America to retrieve her, Wang volunteers. The action then jumps to the American southwest. Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and his gang attempt to rob the very train on which Wang and his group are traveling. The two face off and Roy, who is abandoned by his gang, is left for dead. Meanwhile, we learn that the Princess is being held by Lo Fong (Roger Yuan). When Roy and Wang encounter one another again, they are forced to team up to fight a group of bandits. When the ever-greedy Roy learns that there is a reward for the Princess' return, he volunteers to help Wang. The two will learn to overcome their cultural differences as they face a great adventure.
It seems that every few years, someone comes along and attempts to revitalize the Western. Obviously, the 1970s television show Kung Fu integrated martial arts/an Eastern philosophy into a Western background, but given that, Shanghai Noon still had a fresh feeling. The movie was set in the 1800s, but it clearly had a 21st Century attitude, including the use of anachronistic music and references. Casting Chan as the fish-out-of-water Chinese man who must adapt to the wild west was a great idea. Wilson is a little too laid back in his role, but he's likeable enough and accessible as the lead.
So, the question must be asked, why is Shanghai Noon a dull movie? Despite the addition of the Eastern themes, this is still pretty much a straight-ahead Western movie, as we get cliched events like the train robbery, the saloon brawl, and the brothel. There are no surprises with the story. The film includes several scenes in which Chan is able to include his "drunken" fighting style (in which he uses objects in the environment to fight), and while these are certainly interesting, it feels as if the movie stops in order to highlight them. (And it also feels that Chan is literally pulling his punches in order to work within the PG-13 framework.) Wilson and Chan are able to create a believable chemistry and the movie does have some funny moments. However, it's nearly impossible to watch the movie and not come away with a bit of an awkward feeling given the Chinese and Native American stereotypes which are presented here (especially given the fact that the movie was made in 2000).
Shanghai Noon never fully explains how Roy escapes on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 19 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, and while it doesn't show any defects from the source material, there is a light amount of grain here. The colors look good, most notably in the sunny daytime scenes. The colors do look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is acceptable, but the image is a bit soft at times. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. Disney usually does a great job with its catalog titles, so it's disappointing that this release (both movies) doesn't offer a lossless track. (Was it because of size limitations as both movies are on one Disc?) The track is OK, as it offers obvious surround and subwoofer effects, but the effects aren't very detailed and don't have the "crisp" sound of an HD track.
The Shanghai Noon Blu-ray Disc contains a selection of extras (most of which are from the original DVD release). We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Tom Dey, Jackie Chan, and Owen Wilson. There are seven FEATURETTES -- "Making an Eastern Western" (3 minutes), "Partners" (4 minutes), "Jackie's Comedy" (4 minutes) "Western Stunts, Eastern Style" (4 minutes), "Hanging with Roy and The Kid" (2 minutes), "Action Overload" (3 minutes), "Choo Choo Boogie" (3 minutes) -- which focus on several different facets of the film's production (and whose titles are all pretty self-explanatory). The Disc contains eights DELETED SCENES which do not offer a PLAY ALL selection. The MUSIC VIDEO for "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" by Uncle Kracker is included here. The final extra is the THEATRICAL TRAILER for the film.
Shanghai Noon had a reported budget of $55 million and it reportedly made $57 million at the box office, but that was clearly enough to justify a sequel. Shanghai Knights opens about a year after the events of Shanghai Noon. Wang is now the sheriff of a small Western town. He receives word that his father has been murdered in China and that the culprit has fled to London. While on his way there, Wang stops in New York to get Roy. Roy had supposedly traveled to The Big Apple to invest the reward money from the first film, but, in reality, he's fallen on hard times. The pair travel to London, where they learn that Wang's sister, Chon Lin (Fann Wong), has been jailed for attempting to kill Lord Rathbone (Aidan Gillen), whom she's convinced was involved in the murder. In fact, he was, as Rathbone has made a deal with Wu Chow (Donnie Yen), which will benefit them both. Wong and Roy begin to investigate and learn that they must not only navigate a strange foreign city, but they must find their way into upper crust London society in order to stop Rathbone.
Dollar-wise, Shanghai Knights was slightly more successful than its predecessor and for me, it was a more entertaining film. Again, Shanghai Noon simply stamped some new ingredients on an old recipe, while Shanghai Knights brings in some ideas which felt fresh at the time. (Although the twoSherlock Holmes films which were released subsequently really capitalized on that time period.) In this film, both Roy and Wang are the fish-out-of-water and we get to see them attempt to adapt and find allies. Even more so than in Shanghai Noon, Director David Dobkin (Wedding Crashers) (taking over from Tom Dey) fills the film with modern music and references to famous people of the day and the future. As with the first film, Shanghai Knights attempts to integrate Chan's fighting style without slowing things down too much, but the martial arts still feel very mild. Ironically, the movie contains more sexual references and questionable language which pushes the PG-13 rating. For lack of a better word, this film feels "looser" than the first one, and thus it's easier to buy into the "fun" vibe which it's trying to sell. It's still not a great movie, but I didn't find it as flat as the Shanghai Noon. Together, the two films represent an interesting experiment of giving Jackie Chan new vehicles in Hollywood, but the sheer mediocrity of both films hurts them.
Shanghai Knights should have taken the Jack the Ripper cameo a lot further on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Touchstone Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look good, most notably the reds, but some of the nighttimes shots are a bit dark. The level of detail is good (just look at Owen Wilson's nose!) and the picture shows a nice amount of depth. The Disc carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which runs at 48 kHz and a constant 640 kbps. The track delivers clear dialogue and sound effects, but, as noted above, it's a disappointment.
The Shanghai Knights Blu-ray Disc contains a few extras. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director David Dobkin. This is followed by a second COMMENTARY with Screenwriters Alfred Gough & Miles Millar. The Disc contains eleven DELTED SCENES, again with no PLAY ALL option. "Fight Manual" (9 minutes) has Chan and Dobkin explaining the challenge of mixing action and comedy. This is enhanced by on-set footage of the fight scenes and some rehearsal stuff. "Action Overload" (94 seconds) is a reel of action scenes form the film made to look like a silent movie. Why?
Review by Mike Long. Copyright 2013.