Jackie Chan stars as Chon Wang (get it? John Wayne), a 19th century Imperial guard in the Forbidden City who comes to America to rescue Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu), who’s been kidnapped by a Chinese traitor who enslaves Chinese immigrants as railroad workers. The Old West is much different from the East, hence Wang will need somebody to help him get around. That somebody is Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson), a laid back blonde outlaw who meets Wang while robbing the train he’s riding. Together, this odd couple will try to work out their differences and save the day, with a little help from a fierce Indian squaw and her peers.
How underwhelming a picture! “Shanghai Noon” is not particularly bad; in fact, it’s a modestly entertaining little cowboy film. Yet as a Jackie Chan fan, I expected more than that, especially with all the mostly glowing reviews. Has any of you critics ever seen Chan’s Honk Kong classics? Cause if you had, you’d see how sub par this new outing his. Sure, Chan is an irresistible screen presence, as funny as he is fast and agile, but there’s hardly a move here he didn’t do better before, and the stunts are mostly unimpressive. As for the comedy, it isn’t much better. I did laugh here and there, but the movie is light years from Chan’s hilarious previous romp “Rush Hour”, in which he teamed up with comedian Chris Tucker to wonderful effect. Chan also has good chemistry with saddle buddy Owen Wilson, whose California cool attitude is one of the few really enjoyable things in the film, but “Shanghai Noon” lacks edge, invention and direction.
First time director Tom Dey’s movie looks pretty good is relatively well put together, but storywise, it just wanders aimlessly through various Western clichés. You’ve got your horse riding, your saloon brawl, your jailbreak, your visit to a brothel, your duel, your Mexican standoff… and then there’s a bunch of not that exciting kung fu to tentatively spice it up, with little success. If you ask me, Wild Wild West was much more enjoyable a Western comedy in its own silly, campy way. Don’t bother with “Shanghai Noon”. You’re better off seeing “Rush Hour” again.