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Shanghai Knights (PG)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Fight Manual. Action Overload; Director David Dobkin commentary; Screenwriter commentary; Deleted scenes.

THE law of diminishing returns can aptly be applied to Shanghai Knights, an occasionally enjoyable, yet frequently tiresome sequel to the popular Shanghai Noon.

Jackie Chan and the ever-endearing Owen Wilson successfully recapture their chemistry from the first film, and the action scenes remain as inspired as ever, yet too much about the rest of the film grates, from its contrived characters to its hopelessly idiotic premise.

Picking up some time after the original left off, Shanghai Knights finds Chan’s former Imperial guard-turned-sheriff, Chon Wang, reuniting with Wilson’s ex-train robber, Roy O’Bannon, and travelling to London to search for the Chinese rebels who murdered his father.

Along the way, they pick up Wang’s sister, Lin (Fann Wong), as well as a tiresome street urchin and a bumbling Scotland Yard detective, before becoming embroiled in a plot to murder the royal family by one of its heirs (Aidan Gillen).

While the appeal of a Jackie Chan movie seldom lies in its story or characterisation, there are times when it feels like the film is trying too hard to be clever, and straining to generate the required laughs.

So while the Chan-Wilson partnership survives intact, and continues to be very funny, very little else does. Writers, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, attempt to gain too much mileage from supposedly ironic touches, making everyone involved a surprise historical character - hence, the street urchin turns out to be Charlie Chaplin, and the affable detective none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Jack the Ripper even gets a look in, but is despatched to the Thames in the blink of an eye by Wang’s high-kicking sister in one of the more absurd moments.

Such tongue in cheek contrivances are, no doubt, designed to be appealing, yet they eventually serve to diminish the enjoyment of proceedings, and merely highlight the fact that the film is too long for its own good. Which is a shame, given that the central pairing works so well.

Wilson and Chan provide a terrific double act, the former all laidback charm and effortless charisma, delivering his funny lines with aplomb, and the latter as energetic as ever, benefiting, no doubt, from the extra time afforded to him to compose his action sequences.

As such, we’re treated to a wonderfully-slapstick Keystone Cops homage, with Chan athletically laying waste to a market-place full of villains armed with only an umbrella (to the strains of Singing In The Rain), and a couple of well-realised showdowns with Gillen’s sword-wielding ultra-villain (in the clock tower of Big Ben) as well as Hong Kong action legend, Donnie Yen.

Yet as enjoyable as such moments remain, it is the cringe inducing tone of the rest of the film (particularly in its sickly final third) that leaves the lasting impression, making the prospect of a Shanghai Dawn something of a weary proposition.

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