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Buy the 'Shanghai Noon' DVD.


Photograph by Richard Cartwright

Time Isn't on Their Side: Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan play Beat the Clock in 'Shanghai Knights.'

Low Noon

Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan just aren't as unbearably adorable the second time around, in 'Shanghai Knights'

By Steve Palopoli

YOU KNOW what was great about the Old West? Chris Tucker wasn't born yet. And likewise, what was so great about Shanghai Noon was that Tucker was similarly not involved, making it a Rush Hour rip-off that was several times funnier and more charming than Rush Hour itself. There is something about the pairing of Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson that is almost unbearably adorable--but adorable nonetheless--and Shanghai Noon got a hell of a lot of comic mileage out of the fact that they were a shoo-in vote for least likely to succeed in a buddy-action flick set in the Old West.

Sadly, but perhaps predictably, a lot of what made Shanghai Noon such a surprisingly satisfying action-comedy vehicle for Chan has been, well, shanghaied in this sequel. The first one had OK fight scenes, plus there was something novel about watching Owen Wilson playing Owen Wilson in the Old West as if he didn't know most of his little jokey phrases wouldn't be invented for another 100 years.

This time, there's an extra helping of the latter--with all his nonstop patter, it's like some kind of late-night Owen Wilson Show set in 19th-century England--and it's still usually pretty funny. But the fight scenes are way too goofy, thus reducing the cool factor by at least half. In fact, it seems to be the sheer charisma of Owen and Jackie holding this thing together at all. Well, all right, Fann Wong is fine as the beautiful but of course still kick-ass Lin, but the romance between her and Wilson doesn't get anything more than lip service (literally), and--really now--how good a part do you think a chick is gonna get in a movie like this?

There is one great scene late in the film that perfectly balances inventive action and physical comedy. And since it involves Wilson getting dunked upside-down into the water over and over again, it also works for those of you have had it up to here with the guy's shtick and were secretly hoping Gene Hackman would leave him behind enemy lines.

Otherwise, there's really nothing here but tired filler. The plot is unbelievably stupid, centered around a British political assassination plot with a Chinese tie-in that makes no sense. Aidan Gillen plays a bargain-basement snide English villain--if they had to include something this pathetically cliché, couldn't they at least afford Alan Rickman?--and Donnie Yen is wasted in an embarrassing role. The Jack the Ripper angle is a groaner, and the whole thing about Charlie Chaplin is just irritating--he wasn't even born when the movie opens, for crying out loud. But on the plus side, as I mentioned before, neither was Tucker. Which is worth remembering, since, for all its many, many problems, Shanghai Knights is still more fun than Rush Hour 2.

Shanghai Knights (PG-13; 107 min.), directed by David Dobkin, written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, photographed by Adrian Biddle and starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, opens Friday at selected theaters valleywide.

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From the February 6-12, 2003 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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