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  • Shanghai Knights (2003): ***½

    Directed by David Dobkin

    You know, for the first few sequences of this film I wasn't sure that I was really going to like it. At least not like I liked the prequel, Shanghai Noon. I'm one of the few people I know who really, really liked that movie.

    But this one starts off kind of choppy. There's really nothign I can put my finger on, but it just gave me the impression that it would be a choppy, poorly-put together movie. Don't get me wrong, Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson were at their usual funny level, but somethign just didn't flow right with the movie. I think it might have had a lot to do with the music. The music in the first half of this film is pretty intrusive and over-the-top. It doesn't really work.

    But thankfully about 20 minutes or so into the film (basically as soon as they get to England), everythign starts falling into place and the story hits a nice groove. Surprisingly, the story fits together pretty well. It's not just a shit-ass excuse of a story like Rush Hour 2, which you can basically describe the story as "Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker go apeshit for an hour and a half." This film's story is actually rather competently told.

    The comedy is of course, very, very, funny. It's often grab your sides, pound your armrest, and kick the seat in front of you funny. Most of that is of course due to the incredible Owen Wilson. Everythign that comes out of his Roy O'Bannon's mouth is pretty much comedy gold. A lot of the action is really funny as well, in a very old-fashioned slapsticky way.

    The action is also way, WAY better than the Shanghai Noon. And that's not really all that big of a surprise when you learn that Jackie Chan personally himself choreographed the action, and he's working very closely in a lot of the action sequences with his highly-trained "Jackie Chan Stunt Team." The film moves and plays like a western, Hollywood film, but the action plays and moves like a classic Jackie Chan Hong Kong Film. It's all horribly inventive, using an absurd variety of props and sets, even Madame Toussad's House of Wax. It really makes me wonder why they don't just let Jackie Chan direct films in America. Oh, well, you know what? His Hong Kong films usually have shit-ass excuses of stories, so I suppose it's better this way. In Shanghai Knights you get the best of both worlds.

    -Christopher Grant Harris

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