Shanghai Knights

reviewed by Adam Charlesworth

High concept movies are a problem. A bunch of guys get together with some high-powered Hollywood producer guys and pitch ideas. “I know a western...hmmm High Noon, no its been done, how about a vehicle for Jackie Chan...I know ShangHIGH Noon”.

The sequel, making the Noon to Knights pun, spawned a lot of top down concept ideas that peppered the movie with gags and caused the film to suffer from “creeping featuretteism” that is invading cinema as of late. What I mean is, now that Hollywood has proved a coherent plot line an unnecessary waste of time, they are going on to reduce films into five minute featurette segments that are visually amusing but break films up into bite-sized segments. It is as if some clever boffin has figured out that “they will never swallow all this crap whole, lets give it to them in bits.”

So, here are the things that pissed me off about the film: Chaplin not born in 1868.; machine gun not invented in 1880; and Jack the Ripper not walking about Whitechapel in 1880. These are all symptoms of the “concept” disease. “Nights.” “No, Knights,” says one Hollywood guy to the other “That’s even better, they will go to England, lets see, English stuff...royalty, Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Jack the Ripper, Thames, make fun of palace guard, tough Americans, Sherlock Holmes...yeah we can squeeze all that in.”

Yup, they sure did. So all that being said, I laughed a lot. Although fun in the first movie, going through the gags again was not. Owen Wilson’s out of place philosophic everyman sans morals, was again a tour de force of funny. Jackie Chan scored big with two very funny featurette moments, one a Keystone Cop scene in a revolving elevator that was brilliant and just what I have come to expect from Mr. Chan, and an homage to Singin' in the Rain as he beats up a gang of Fleet street toughs, again brilliant.

If you want to watch a brilliant clever set piece movie with in depth and thought out plot line with no holes and good characters, rent a Cohen brother film, or go to an Ernst Lubitsch Film Festival, go to any film but this. If you have zero expectations (understand, that there is no real plot) and like to look at martial arts Owen Wilson or the young actress who played Jackie Chan’s baby sister (Fann Wong, OH MY GOD is she ever great)...then go. You will have a few laughs and giggles, I sure did.

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