“Shanghai Knights” meets all of the necessary requirements for being yet another addition to the always-expanding list of needless movies. It is both a sequel and a buddy movie: two categories of films that can easily spell disaster by themselves, let alone combined. But in spite of its many potential negative elements, this comedy-adventure never takes itself too seriously and isn’t insulting, which is nice since so many recent sequels and buddy flicks tend to be quite the opposite. Director David Dobkin allows the two lead actors, Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, to do what they do best. The end result is therefore a funny, enjoyable movie that showcases some truly creative action sequences.
If there’s one major drawback to this movie it is the plot, which reunites the two main characters from the original “Shanghai Noon,” Chon Wang (Chan) and Roy O’Bannon (Wilson), whose chemistry together was the reason why the original film was as enjoyable as it was. This time around, Chon and Roy travel to London in pursuit of the power-hungry Rathbone, who killed Chon’s father in a plot to wipe out the Royal Family and seize the throne. Along the way they meet up with Chon’s younger sister Lin, with whom Roy seems to fall instantaneously in love and who is no stranger to martial arts.
Naturally, the trio encounters danger every step of the way whether from Rathbone’s men or Scotland Yard, which of course means that there is a lot of action in this film. There are a few very imaginative fight sequences that combine Jackie Chan’s unique martial arts ability with humorous staging. There are a couple of standout scenes that come to mind – one involving a swinging door at a hotel and the other has Chon fighting with numerous umbrellas to the sound of “Singin’ In the Rain” in the musical score.
Though the action scenes are creatively choreographed, there isn’t much of interest happening in terms of plot. The plot is merely an excuse for having Owen Wilson deliver hilarious one-liners and Jackie Chan perform new and amusing action sequences. And it is for that reason that horrendous characters like Rathbone were created. Most of the scenes involving Rathbone are downright silly, as he is established as a man to hate on sheer principle from the time he is introduced.
Most of the film’s strongest moments have nothing to do with the plot; they usually involve Roy and Chon in tight situations. In one particular scenario, the two of them have to escape through a window in the ceiling. Chon signals for Roy to leap into his hands so that he can swing him up, to which Roy responds, “Now what in our history makes you think I’m capable of something like that?” Another amusing element that has been carried over from the original movie is the number of historical figures that Roy and Chon encounter. In this film we see that they were a big influence on young Charlie Chaplin.
“Shanghai Knights” avoids most of the pitfalls associated with the genre. The weaknesses that it does have are made up for by the quick pace of the story and the charm of the two lead actors. Simply put, “Shanghai Knights” is nothing more than decent entertainment, putting it well beyond most movies of this type in recent memory.