Shanghai Knights

For years, Jackie Chan wanted to be successful in America. Now that he has that success, Chan (The Tuxedo, Rush Hour 2) is changing a lot of what made him successful in the first place. He is getting older, so is (admittedly) doing less of his own stunts and the stunts he does are much less elaborate. His movies are developing plot, and becoming more slapstick in their humor. Shanghai Knights is a sequel that steps in the wrong direction, but still manages to be amusing enough to be tolerable. One of the reasons Shanghai Noon was so amusing was that it was barely plausible and an amusing fist-out-of-water story.

Moving the action to England is not a great idea, especially when writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Showtime, Shanghai Noon) seem so concerned with trying to be clever and stuffing the script with as many historical figures as possible. Chon Wang (Chan) learns that his father was murdered. His sister Lin (Fann Wong, 175 Degrees Colour-Blindness, When I Fall in Love) is in England trying to avenge their father's death. The story revolves around a plot to steal the Chinese Imperial Seal and to take over both England and China, but the real plot is Wang and cohort Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson, I Spy, Behind Enemy Lines) yuk it up in a new foreign country.

In addition to the non-stop character cameos, Shanghai Knights uses a few too many tired English stereotypes and suffers from an over-eager soundtrack. A serial killer, an inspector with an innovative technique, and a street urchin a la Horatio Alger all make lame appearances. Director David Dobkin (Clay Pigeons) completely wastes martial arts star Donnie Yen (Blade II, Highlander: Endgame), giving him only one action sequence, and Wong seems cast just because she superficially resembles Zhang Ziyi.

All these deficiencies show just how strong Chan's comedic talents are, even watered down like they are here. He has a childlike sense of glee that shines through most of his characters, including Wang. There is a sort of innocence to what he does, and he seems to effortlessly perform all his moves, and things like this make watching him fun. Shanghai Knights relies on the interplay between Chan and Wilson to succeed. It is more strained here than in the original, but still amusing. Chan is the straight man and Wilson the goofball. Chan contributes the martial arts prowess, and Wilson mouths off at every opportunity. There is a thin line between grating and funny, and it's sometimes hard to tell what side Wilson is on. Given his other movies, it is more likely the fault of the script than of Wilson the actor. Here's hoping that if another sequel comes forth, the script is the first thing they work on.

Haro Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 47 minutes, Rated PG-13 for action violence and sexual content.

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