1887. Former outlaws Chon Wang and Roy O’Bannon are reunited after Wang’s father is killed in China by Lord Rathbone, an English peer who is tenth in line to the British throne. With revenge in his heart, Wang travels with Roy to London to put a stop to Rathbone’s dastardly ways - with his kid sister in tow.
Now here’s a pleasant surprise: a sequel to a pleasant surprise that’s even more pleasantly surprising than its predecessor.
When Shanghai Noon appeared in 2000, it was quickly lauded as Jackie Chan’s finest American film - praise based on decent fight scenes and the offbeat central relationship between the stoic Chan and the extremely laidback Owen Wilson.
Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar - who scripted the original - clearly recognise this, and so wisely eschew both the Western setting and anything resembling a coherent plot in order to focus on the two stars’ strengths.
Chan’s American movies have generally been let down not only by the star’s pidgin English (a situation addressed here by a simple solution: Chan punches, Wilson wisecracks) but by stodgy fight sequences marred by MTV editing.
Director David Dobkin, though, resists this urge and leaves Chan alone to craft some wonderfully innovative fight sequences - in a revolving door, a library, in the inner workings of Big Ben - which recall the very best of the star’s Hong Kong work.
Dobkin also leaves Wilson to his own devices and again, he’s a constant delight. His patented combo of romantic, optimistic, New Age-y, childlike awe and drawled, deadpan sarcasm is, of course, his usual schtick, but here refined to the nth degree. His chemistry with Chan is priceless; watching him confound Chan by saying, “I love you, buddy” is worth an extra star in itself.
Which is just as well, for elsewhere Dobkin drops the ball. For example if, during a sublime scene where Chan wields an umbrella, you didn’t realise that it’s an homage to Singin’ In The Rain, well, Dobkin helpfully plays the song for you. Elsewhere, he succumbs to obvious culture clash gags and oh-so-subtle references to British history (so our heroes encounter a young Charlie Chaplin and Jack the Ripper, and invent Sherlock Holmes along the way).
Quibbles aside, though, The Owen And Jackie Show is so charming that a potential third instalment is actually very appealing. Shanghai Brunch, anyone?
Wilson and Chan - this generation’s Hope and Crosby? Okay, maybe not, but they certainly transcend decent material to make a film that is easily the equal of the original.
Reviewed by Chris Hewitt