Shanghai Noon (2000)

Rating: ***
Release Date: 5/26/00
Cast: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Yu Rong Guang.

With the huge success of 1998's "Rush Hour," Jackie Chan finally found a mainstream American audience. Deciding to play it safe, "Shanghai Noon" is an almost identical remake, only this time set in the American Old West. Back in China, Princess Pei Pei (luscious Lucy Liu) is betrothed to a man she cannot stand, so she decides to flee to America with the aid of her English tutor. Unfortunately, her exodus turns out to be a kidnapping, and a corrupt Chinese officer ransoms her for 100,000 gold pieces. Three Imperial guards are sent to Carson City, Nevada in order to safely return the princess, and bumbling guard Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) manages to tag along. Wang hooks up with a fast talking train robber named Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and the two of them manage an uneasy alliance while trying to evade the law and save the princess. It all comes down to a three-way showdown between Chan and Wilson, the Imperial guard, and the villains. Much mayhem ensues.

Much like "Rush Hour," the film somehow manages to be entertaining in spite of its rapid fire forced attempts at lame-brained humor. And much like "Rush Hour," Chan plays a "stranger in a strange land" straight man to his goofy partner's nonstop verbal barrage. And much like Chris Tucker, you just want to slap Owen Wilson silly to make him shut the hell up. Fortunately, the film has got plenty of action to keep you distracted from everything else, like for instance, the plot. Chan borrows some gags from his previous "Project A" (1983) films, and cleverly manages to sneak some excellent classical kung fu into the mix. An extremely well done sequence with a horseshoe whip showcases Chan's grace and dexterity, and he has a superb fight with kung fu veteran Yu Rong Guang at the film's climax. Thankfully this exchange is lovingly captured with long and wide cuts, allowing every facet of the combat to be enjoyed. Great stuff! Lucy Liu also gets in some brief, but spirited fighting, making me all the more anxious to see her in the upcoming "Charlie's Angels" movie. So, if you can deal with all of the inane banter (which most of the audience seemed to be thrilled with), this is a fun way to spend an afternoon.