Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray Review
SHANGHAI NOON 7/10
When SHANGHAI NOON was released in 2000 it was the mainstream sophomore outing of long-time Asian action/martial arts star Jackie Chan. He had only appeared in one other major American picture, RUSH HOUR (1998) and this was his second buddy-cop film with a twist. It’s funny to look back now on just how similar these first two films were – in both Chan plays a lawman of sorts from the east visiting a strikingly different culture. In both films he is paired up with a misfit with a heart of gold. And in both there are great action and great comedic scenes. I’m actually surprised both movies haven’t lived longer as SHANGHAI NOON, at the very least, has aged pretty well.
SHANGHAI NOON is the dual story of Chon Wang (pronounced John Wayne, played by Jackie Chan), an embarrassment of a royal guard who allows his Princess to leave the castle with a strange man in the middle of the night and Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) a hapless outlaw who just wants to be wanted… literally. O’Bannon and Wang meet when O’Bannon’s crew robs the train carrying Wang and the royal guards to Carson City, where they are to ransom the princess. Wang’s uncle, the only man who believes in him, is killed when he walks into the wrong car at the wrong time and Wang is left alone, without anyone to help him rescue Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu). Eventually he is forced to team up with O’Bannon and the two become friends as they try to save the princess (and gain infamy in the wild west).
It’s crazy looking back just how similar SHANGHAI NOON is to RUSH HOUR, the other Chan vehicle which launched just two years earlier and spawned two sequels. SHANGHAI NOON is, in my humble opinion, a much better film for a number of reasons but the simplest is probably the best – the ol’ West. Chan is so out of place as Wang, and Wilson plays O’Bannon with such candor and nobility (even though he’s kind of a scum bag) the film is a joy to watch, even this many years later. The entire film is worth it if you make it to the scene with the two of them in a brothel, getting drunk in the bath, and playing a chinese drinking game – which essentially amounts to a song which they both sing poorly and then each take shots. I can’t fake the ear-to-ear grin just the thought of this film inspires. Well worth the effort to purchase it on Blu-ray and check it out for yourself in all it’s HD glory. Sadly, it’s paired with the second film in the series, SHANGHAI KNIGHTS.
SHANGHAI KNIGHTS 5/10
The sophomore effort between Wilson and Chan, this one just misses the mark despite trying to change the dynamic by taking the duo to Great Britain. In the sequel Chan is again dealing with the loss of a father figure, this time his actual biological father who is murdered in the opening of the film. To get justice for his father’s crime, Wang and O’Bannon head to the UK where this time the action and the jokes are rapid fire for most of the film. Unlike SHANGHAI NOON, though, things aren’t as refined and there are far more forgettable sequences.
In some ways I think SHANGHAI KNIGHTS was the film they really wanted SHANGHAI NOON to be. The characters are established, which means they don’t have to spend much time setting the stage before everyone can jump right in. Sadly that means the plot and the action sequences, in general, are much more frenetic and loose. The whole film doesn’t feel as tight, which could also be a comment on the changing state of cinema in the intervening years between SHANGHAI NOON and SHANGHAI KNIGHTS. There is a lot more random in this film (think ANCHORMAN) but it doesn’t fit the style established in the first film. A decent flick, and more fun than I remembered, but it still just doesn’t work as well.
SHANGHAI NOON / SHANGHAI KNIGHTS BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p, 2.35:1 Widescreen) The SHANGHAI NOON/SHANGHAI KNIGHTS 2 MOVIE COLLECTION features gorgeous visuals both in the forbidden city and later, in the scenes of the old west. You might notice on larger televisions a few issues where the HD translation didn’t work as well, even worse in the second film, but overall it looks great.
Audio: (English Dolby Digital 5.1) The audio doesn’t get any favors from being on a single disc with 2 movies and lots of audio tracks, but there aren’t any glaring errors or issues that would make you enjoy the films any less.
Audio Commentary with Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, and director Tom Dey (01:50:17) SHANGHAI NOON features a decent audio commentary with Wilson and Dey also includes some weirdly interspersed comments from Chan (who was obviously recorded separately). Some interesting discussions here about East vs. West mentality and the decisions made while filming the feature.
Classic DVD Bonus Features: The SHANGHAI NOON/SHANGHAI KNIGHTS 2 MOVIE COLLECTION puts the DVD features (and little new) in a sub-category called “classic” features. The features for SHANGHAI NOON include the following:
Deleted Scenes: 8 scenes from the first movie, not given much care for the translation to HD, seem poorly ported here. They include Wang’s Wild Ride (01:58), Fong and Van Cleef Make Plans (02:05), Buried Alive (01:55), Bulldog Drummond (02:36), Three Little Queues (01:41), Falling Leaves Takes a Dip (00:54), It’s Only Money (01:58), Wang and Roy’s Sunset Ride (00:27). They are all a big bag of okay, and don’t really add anything to the film as is usually the case with scenes cut in editing.
Featurette: A 7 part featurette would have been a lot nicer with a play-all button. It would also have been nice if the studio had spent some money actually doing more than porting over the DVD special features. These look TERRIBLE, trying to fit onto an old non-Widescreen television everything is drawn strangely vertical. What makes it worse is that they are actually really GOOD featurettes, the kind you wish for on any solid Blu-ray package.
Making an Eastern Western (03:23), Partners (04:09), Jackie’s Comedy (03:48), Western Stunts, Eastern Style (03:39), Hanging with Roy and the Kid (02:16), Action Overload (02:41), Choo Choo Boogie (03:09).
SHANGHAI KNIGHTS Audio Commentary featuring director David Dobkin (01:54:21) This one is pretty disappointing. Dobkin doesn’t offer nearly as much content as in the other two commentaries on the SHANGHAI NOON/SHANGHAI KNIGHTS 2 MOVIE COLLECTION. His voice is also in the tone that makes me want to go to sleep.
SHANGHAI KNIGHTS Audio Commentary featuring screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (01:54:21) This one offers quite a bit more for fans of SHANGHAI NOON/SHANGHAI KNIGHTS as the screenwriters discuss lots of interesting tidbits (they worked on both films).
Classic DVD Features – SHANGHAI KNIGHTS
Deleted Scenes: These were given even less love than the special features ported for SHANGHAI NOON, featuring time codes and poorly formatted for HD television. A few are enjoyable, but mostly hit and miss moments that would have hurt the already watered-down plot. The exceptions are the full fight sequences, which really showcase Chan’s incredible talent at being comedic while in the throes of martial arts. This includes Waiting in the Rain (01:24), The Headless Knight (01:19), Clay on Rathbone’s Shoes (01:41), Waldorf Hall Argument (01:22), Outside Rathbone’s Castle (02:15), Stonehenge (02:27), Jail Cell (00:53), Full Library Fight (02:37), Full Madame Tussaud’s Fight (04:03), Full Tent and Barge Fight (04:49), Full Interior Big Ben Fight (05:18)
Fight Manual (09:03) SHANGHAI KNIGHTS features this short discussion with Chan and Dobkin where they talk about comedy and action and how they figured into the films. Interspersed shots from the film play while they talk.
Action Overload (01:34) Shot silent film style, this quick feature shows a bunch of the more exciting sequences from the film, primarily featuring Chan.
The SHANGHAI NOON/SHANGHAI KNIGHTS 2 MOVIE COLLECTION also features the original Theatrical Trailer for SHANGHAI NOON (01:18).