"Shanghai Knights" reunites Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) and Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), our two heroes continuing their saga since we last saw them in "Shanghai Noon." It's a good thing Chan and Wilson came back, as they both had to redeem their careers. They are soul mates, made for each other; in trouble when separated. Jackie Chan found tribulation when he was teamed up with Jennifer Love Hewitt, in the horrible film, "The Tuxedo." Own Wilson wasn't doing much better as he partnered up with Eddie Murphy in the mediocre, "I Spy."
But even together, for the second time, "Shanghai Knights" proved to be a disappointment. The plot is brainless and the jokes aren't funny, at least compared to the original "Shanghai." The movie opens with the assassination of Wang's father at the hands of Rathbone. If you couldn't already tell, he is the main villain. As the 10th in line to the queen of England's succession, he has come up with a plan to kill the entire royal family so he can be the new ruler.
Wang's sister, Chon Lin (Fann Wong), is in pursuit of Rathbone, as he stole the Imperial Seal (nothing more than a family heirloom diamond) from the Wang family. Roy and Chon venture off to Europe as well to assist Lin in avenging their father's death and to reclaim the Seal. Along the way, Bannon falls in love with Lin, and the trio gets into heaps of trouble.
But we must put the plot aside as the plot is not the reason why we watch Chan and Wilson movies. Chan is the entertaining martial artist, and Wilson is the comedian with a sarcastic appeal. Both are weaker in this movie compared to the first and some of their earlier works. Only a few of Chan's fight scenes are worth mentioning, including the 'singing in the rain' number where Wang fights with umbrellas, and the final sword fight between he and Rathbone. Wang is clearly upstaged in the final showdown which makes the fight less memorable.
Wilson continues to be his optimist self, always cracking jokes even when his life is literally hanging in the balance. It's hard to describe, but there's something about him that I really like. He's enjoyable on screen, even when he plays a serious character like in "Behind Enemy Lines." His bipolar chemistry with Chan is what has made the first "Shanghai" successful and what will determine the outcome of the weaker sequel.
"Shanghai Knights" takes the "Forrest Gump" road by including real life characters into the movie. History icon debuts include that of Sherlock Holmes (a character created by Bannon), Jack the Ripper, Charlie Chaplin and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
This movie clearly has a good time making fun of the British. Bannon continually brings up the Revolutionary War, and goes through the Scotland Yard judiciary system and their customs. We also can't forget the dirty orphans and the women with yellow teeth.
While I tried to only focus on the action and the humor, a few things couldn't escape my radar. During the climax, the people of London are enjoying a fabulous fireworks show put on by Rathbone so he can carry out his plan to execute the royal family. When Lin shows up to crash the party, the firework technicians become ninjas, yet all of them are quickly defeated. But even with all of them taken out, the fireworks continue to explode throughout the rest of the movie when they should have abruptly stopped. The people continue to cheer, even when a thug falls to his death from the clock tower directly in the view of the people. To be a little more picky, some of Wang's stunts look to Hollywood and too set-up. After all, what other purpose does a turnstile serve in this type of movie? And the 'singing in the rain' scene wouldn't have been possible if there wasn't a table stacked with umbrellas for Wang to use.
But the pranks and stunts are generally amusing and never get boring. After every encounter with the nameless bad guys, Bannon always finds a way to take credit for most of Wang's dirty work. The sister also kicks a lot of tail being the faster of the Wang siblings and brings new energy to the "Shanghai" series.
What I frown upon the most is the useless supporting characters, in particular the young Aaron Johnson who plays an orphan who won't leave Chan and Bannon alone. He's always getting in the way and slowing the story's progress, for example, he is always stealing the family Seal every time Wang reclaims it. The detective (Tom Fisher) is a stereotypical London officer, but can reveal a person's history just by observing one of their possessions.
Chan gets back into his fighting groove that was temporarily replaced by CGI in "The Tuxedo," but he still hasn't reached the next benchmark in his abilities as a talented fighter. He didn't do anything he hasn't done before. His sword fighting scene may be new, but he is not the better man in that fight. Despite some of the bumps, audiences will generally have a good time at "Shanghai Knights." But if I let you down, at least you have the ending bloopers to look forward to.