Friday, May 26, 2000
Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon
East meets west both in front of and behind the camera as Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan teams with American actor Owen Wilson and with Hollywood's Touchstone Pictures for a period western entitled Shanghai Noon (opening citywide May 26).
There was a time when Jackie Chan was getting younger and younger with each film released in the U.S. That was because American distributors kept reaching further back in time for Hong Kong titles ( First Strike, Mr. Nice Guy, Twin Dragons ) to release in order to satisfy the growing U.S. demand for Jackie Chan. But now that Hollywood has discovered Chan's box office potential here, they are willing to back new American films with the stuntman extraordinaire. So now Chan is beginning to look but not quite act his age. It's just a shame that Hollywood couldn't have come to this realization a couple decades ago when Chan first tried to crack the U.S. market and was in peak physical condition. Anyone who's seen films from that era -- Police Story, Project A, Drunken Master II -- saw Chan at his best and is bound to be somewhat disappointed by this film. But his fans are going to have to deal with the fact that he is getting older and that Hollywood still doesn't quite get the over the top, in your face style of Hong Kong cinema.
That being said, Shanghai Noon is a delightfully entertaining action comedy with Chan and co-star Owen Wilson making a highly appealing buddy team. The story involves a kidnapped Chinese princess, a con man, a Chinese Imperial guard and a whole lot of gold. In case you cant figure it out. Chan plays the Imperial guard sent from China to America in order to bring the Princess (Lucy Liu) back. Owen Wilson is the con man who, like Han Solo, doesnt take an interest in anyones predicament until money is involved.
Shanghai Noon borrows from quite a few films -- Star Wars, Once Upon a Time in China and America, Little Big Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid . But it does so with such self-deprecating humor and unabashed openness that it's hard to resist. Chan still displays flashes of inspiration that draw on his love of silent comedians like Buster Keaton. Chan continues to prove that anything is a potential prop and unusual weapon from saplings in the forest to a horse shoe on a rope. And Chan's physical agility is still a wonder. He makes everything from scaling scaffolding to escaping a hangman's noose look easy.
Shanghai Noon is not Chan at his best but it's such good humored fun and has such a joyous spirit that it's hard to resist.