Jackie Chan goes west in this amiably
mindless action spoof in which he plays a
bumbling palace guard dispatched to 1880s
America to rescue a kidnaped princess
(Lucy Liu). Owen Wilson is a hoot as a
bush-league outlaw who helps out, sort
of. Directed by Tom Dey. 1:40 (some
vulgarity, lots of cartoon-like
violence). At area theaters.
IF SUMMER movie season is the postmodern
equivalent of the traveling circus, then
Jackie Chan is a one-man big top, his own
ringmaster, acrobat troupe and clown act.
He may give tent shows compared with the
arena-rock phantasmagoria routinely
delivered by James Cameron or Jerry
Bruckheimer. But within his self-defined
limits, Chan works with both dogged
conviction and an unapologetic,
ingratiating affection for elaborate
So what, then, if Chan's latest,
"Shanghai Noon," isn't as good
a western as "Rio Bravo" or as
laugh-out-loud funny a western spoof as
"Blazing Saddles"? As filmed
circus acts go, it's a lot more fun than
the "Cirque du Soleil" show now
oozing its way through the IMAX circuit.
The jokes are broad and dumb, just as
they're supposed to be in a sideshow. Its
settings, both in imperial China and the
Wild West of the 19th Century, are the
exotic stuff of old-fashioned carnival
romance. Who needs a plot to connect it
Nevertheless, there is one. It is 1881
and Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu) decides
to bolt China's Forbidden City for the
United States, rather than marry a
royal-blooded dolt as pre-arranged by her
family. It turns out that she's been set
up for a kidnaping by a renegade imperial
guard (Roger Yuan) now exploiting Chinese
immigrants' labor on the American
Back in China, a far less terrifying
palace guard named Chon Wang (Chan) begs
to accompany three of his comrades to
Carson City, Nev., with the ransom.
The train they're riding is attacked by a
gang of outlaws led by genial Roy
O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), whose sole reason
for becoming a desperado is roughly
equivalent to those held by more than a
few aspiring rock stars: It impresses the
heck out of the womenfolk.
In the ensuing chaos, Chon Wang is
separated from his party, battles one
tribe of Indians while being embraced by
another and ends up in a like-hate
alliance with Roy, who's about as adept
in the frontier as this greenhorn from
the Far East.
This fish-out-of-water scenario served
Chan well in 1998's "Rush Hour"
and once again, his wide-eyed charm and
befuddled stoicism are given plenty of
space to operate. The movie also has
plenty of space to display the patented
Chan panache with inanimate objects in
the midst of rapid-fire martial arts
sequences. On the shady side of 40, Chan
is still in fighting, twirling trim.
These days, the real surprises are found
in Chan's non-combative moments, such as
the well-timed Keatonesque way he deals
with a horse that insists on following
him into a saloon.
Wilson may provide a less drastic comic
foil for Chan than "Rush
Hour's" Chris Tucker. But his
off-kilter hayseed persona is given what
may be its most attractive setting to
date and he makes the most of it with an
inspired exhibition of goofball cool.
"Shanghai Noon's" title is only
the first of its many gratuitous nods to
Hollywood's western heyday. Say
"Chon Wang's" name out loud and
you'll know why you're supposed to laugh.
Wilson's O'Bannon is moved to say,
"What kind of name is that for a
cowboy?" It's funnier the first time
than it is the second. Which proves that
western spoof is now as stodgily
ritualized as what it used to mock.
Still, you have to admire the cheek of
any western, funny or otherwise, where
Indians are placed in the role of the
calvary, that is, "saving the
(Virginia) Times :
Shanghai Noon' offers fewer stunts, but
lots of fun and wittiness
BY DANIEL NEMAN
Times-Dispatch Staff Writer
Like an aging pitcher who can no longer
rely on a blazing fastball and has to use
craftiness to get the batters out, Jackie
Chan is moving from being a martial
artist and stuntman to more of a
Chan's latest picture, "Shanghai
Noon," is a comedy rather than a
martial arts film. It still has plenty of
fights in it and several stunts, though
at 46 Chan is no longer attempting the
mind-boggling stunts he once performed.
But what comes through most of all is the
humor. After a slow start, the laughs
keep coming, like Chan's furious fists of
CAST: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson
AT: Chester, Chesterfield, Cloverleaf,
Genito, Ridge, Southpark, Virginia Center
FYI: 106 minutes. Rated PG-13 (bloodless
The clever script by previously unclever
Alfred Gough and Miles Millar deftly
combines several comic genres: the buddy
film, the fish-out-of-water film and the
Western movie parody (think of the title
as "[Shang] High Noon"). All
are blended into an experience that is
Set in 1881, the film stars Chan as Chon
Wang, a little-respected imperial guard
at the Forbidden City in Beijing. When a
princess (Lucy Liu) is ordered to marry
the toadlike pre-adolescent emperor, she
arranges to escape from the country with
They flee to America, where, not overly
surprisingly, she is sold into servitude
as a coolie. Chon and a few other
imperial guards are dispatched to America
to ransom her with a crate of gold.
In the Wild West, Chon meets up with
bandit Roy O'Bannon, played adroitly by
Owen Wilson. Roy is a bad bandit but a
nice guy who has apparently become a
train robber in order to impress girls.
In the time-worn tradition of buddy
films, the two begin as enemies, become
wary partners and eventually wind up as
Though Chon is steeped in tradition, the
laconic Roy is a modern take on a cowboy,
an anti-hero who can neither shoot nor
Much of the humor comes from the arranged
marriage of these two traditions, when
the thoroughly Eastern Chon becomes a
cowboy. Only after the two stars begin
riding horses together do we realize that
the name Chon Wang can sound like John
The good-natured script is full of wit, a
little-seen commodity in the movies these
days. A settler sees the Chinese guards
and, realizing they aren't Indian,
assumes they are Jewish
("Shalom," he says to them).
Roy is pleased to be on a Wanted poster,
but is miffed to learn that the reward
for Chon is much higher -- noting that
Chon, after all, is just a sidekick.
And whoever thought of putting Jackie
Chan in the middle of a barroom brawl in
the Wild West, with ZZ Top playing on the
soundtrack, deserves to be congratulated.
Though the stunts are fewer, the film
still offers some, the best being a fight
high atop a bell tower.
What would have been a truly spectacular
leap from one train car to another is
unconvincingly faked through editing. It
is the kind of stunt he would have
attempted when he was younger and not
being watched over by a nervous studio.
It is sad, but inevitable, to see Chan
slow down. But it is gratifying indeed to
watch him slip so effortlessly into
something he does as well, comedy.
Wilson may feel 'Chan effect'
By Stephen Schaefer, USA TODAY
Chan's 'Shaghai' is a kick
Owen Wilson may wear a black hat opposite
Jackie Chan in Shanghai Noon, but he's no
In fact Wilson is teamed with the Hong
Kong-based superstar in Noon, opening
The last time Chan hooked up with an
off-the-wall pal, it was Chris Tucker in
the 1998 box office behemoth Rush Hour,
and Tucker's price immediately jumped to
Wilson, whose brothers Luke and Andrew
also act, knew going in to Shanghai Noon
that there would be pressure to match
that kind of teaming. "But this
being a period piece and my playing a
cowboy, it's different," Wilson
Shanghai Noon has the acrobatically
airborne Chan as an imperial guard in
1880s Peking who is sent to America's
Wild West to rescue a kidnapped princess
(Lucy Liu). Almost as soon as he arrives,
Chan's Chon Wang meets Wilson's Roy
O'Bannon. Wilson sees O'Bannon as kind of
a time-traveling California surfer
cowboy. "Originally, he was much
more traditional. The way I saw him was
the way kids do air guitar and think of
how much fun it would be to be in Led
Zeppelin. The equivalent back then was to
be an outlaw."
Playing O'Bannon actually wasn't a
stretch. Though Wilson, a Texan, took
horseback riding and fast-draw lessons
before filming, he confided, "I
wasn't that crazy about horses. My
mother's a good horseback rider, but I've
never hit it off that well with
He did hit it off with Chan, naturally.
"I'd seen Jackie Chan as a kid in
something like Cannonball Run but was not
even aware it was Jackie Chan then. I
remember Quentin Tarantino said if he
could come back as anyone, he'd come back
as Jackie," says Wilson.
"Jackie really is like Fred Astaire,
the way he is with the action stuff.
There's not real violence there."
But Wilson never envied him.
"Not only did I not take the
challenge, I decided if Jackie was doing
all his own stunts, I wanted to be known
as the actor who never did any."
After positive test screenings Shanghai
Noon was repositioned to this Memorial
Day weekend, even though that slots it
against Mission: Impossible
2. "There is a kind of
excitement having it moved up because it
shows they believe in the movie," he
says, "but it's nerve-racking to
open against M:I-2."
China Morning Post!
Chan tames Wild West
East meets Western: Owen Wilson, left, as
a bumbling bandit and Jackie Chan are men
with a mission in Shanghai Noon.
SHANGHAI NOON by MATHEW SCOTT
There were plenty of heroes in America's
Wild West and plenty of villains, too.
But there was nothing quite like Jackie
In his latest vehicle, Shanghai Noon,
Chan takes on the Western genre and does
what he does best; he turns it on its
As Chon Wang - a proud but put-upon
Imperial Guard searching for a kidnapped
princess - Chan fights his way past all
the cliched characters audiences have
come to expect. Cowboys, Indians and guns
for hire are all left in his wake.
No, there's nothing really new to be
found in Chan's role as a man out of his
depth, but there is a freshness and zeal
to the story that keep it all rolling
It's more Blazing Saddles than High Noon,
and that's meant as a compliment.
We first encounter Wang inside the
Forbidden City. He watches as the
princess (Ally McBeal's Lucy Lui) is led
away thinking she is escaping an arranged
marriage. We soon discover she has been
kidnapped and Wang, feeling somehow
responsible, pleads his way on to the
rescue team. Exit Exotic East; enter Wild
While travelling to pay the ransom, Wang
and his crew run into a bunch of bandits,
led by Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and
from there the laughs, and the tumbles,
come thick and fast.
As the small-time criminal with big-time
ideas, Wilson is at his bumbling best,
recalling his wonderful performance as
the inept crook Dignan in Bottle Rocket
(1996). His chemistry with Chan brings
provides the film's highlights as they
combine in friendship to rescue the
princess. And what more needs to be said
about that man Chan. How he continually
comes up with fresh ideas for fight
scenes - using a horse shoe to fend off
attackers in one, moose antlers in
another - is anyone's guess.
As Princess Pei Pei, Lui doesn't really
have much to do except pout but, it must
be said, she does that very well.
There are countless nods to the Westerns
of old - Chon Wang translates to John
Wayne and one of the villains of the
piece is called Van Cleef (as in Lee) -
and that's all part of Shanghai Noon's
undoubted charm. The body count may be
high but the actual violence is, as is
Chan's trademark, always kept more
slapstick than Scorsese. And, these days,
that makes for a welcome change.
It must be said, too, that Shanghai Noon
will perhaps be the only time a cowboy
steals a line from a James Brown song
("I don't know karate, but I know
crazy") and first-time director Tom
Dey produces a finale that would do
action king John Woo proud - church
shootout and all.
But Chan's fans will not have to be
convinced. After all, if he shoots it,
they will come. And rightly so.