"Shanghai Noon" was an entertaining little buddy comedy/Western that found an effective pairing in Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan. A sequel didn't seem particularly necessary and, while the second film isn't quite as amusing as the first, it's still a decent way to spend 110 minutes and change. Returning screenwriters Alfred Gough & Miles Millar pick up where the last film left off, as Chon (Chan) travels to New York City to meet up with his old friend Roy (Wilson), who has not exactly invested the money the two got from the first film very wisely.
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From there, the two manage to head off to England, where Chon's sister, Lin (Fann Wong) is already attempting to track down the killer of Chon's father. Once there, the three manage to stumble upon a plot by Rathbone (Aiden Gillen) to kill the royal family and claim the throne for himself. Meanwhile, the three also have to contend with Wu Yip (Donnie Yen), who is seeking to become Emperor of China. It's little use to continue on with a plot description, as the movie only strings scenes along with a thread; plot holes pile up and the movie seems gleefully unconcerned.
The sequel's idea to move to a completely different location is certainly a success, as the film is able to work in some sly, subtle gags about locations (a Stonehenge bit is amusing, although the few bits prior were predictable). Wilson and Chan share similar chemistry once again and the performances (although neither are at their best) from both go a long way towards redeeming some of the lamer jokes in the screenplay by Gough and Millar. The real surprise in the picture is Asian pop star Fann Wong, who not only handles the action superbly, but offers quite a charming performance. The action is, once again, nicely mixed with the comedy. Chan's style of using everyday objects as props in the middle of these sequences is also a delight.
As much as I liked aspects of "Knights", I just can't overlook the fact that some of the humor falls flat. For every decent gag (the outtakes at the end are funnier than much of what's in the movie), there's one that doesn't work or one that's too predictable. Although Wilson doesn't seem quite as invested as he has in other roles, at least he's better here than he was in "I Spy" and he can still come up with a line that's gotta be his - when informed that he'll be heading to London, Wilson's character says, "I hear England is --- soup - a lotta pretty girls there."
Overall, "Shanghai Knights" is a good time-waster and has quite a few entertaining moments, but unfortunately, it seems like it's on autopilot too often.
VIDEO: "Shanghai Knights" is presented by Buena Vista Home Video in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Ace cinematographer Adrian Biddle makes strong use of the widescreen frame and generally captures Chan's fights quite well. Buena Vista's transfer, however, is somewhat inconsistent. Sharpness and definition aren't an issue, though: the picture remains crisp and well-defined throughout.
The problem that plagues the transfer is edge enhancement. While certainly the worst case of it, halos are quite noticable in a handful of scenes. Some very minor compression artifacts were also spotted. On a positive note, the print is in excellent condition, with nothing in the way of specks, marks or other instances of wear.
The film's warm color palette translates perfectly to DVD, as the rich reds, browns and other colors that appear throughout the picture look superbly rendered and well-saturated. Black level remained solid, while flesh tones remained accurate. This is a pretty good transfer, but it loses points for some noticable issues.
SOUND: "Shanghai Knights" is presented by Buena Vista with a somewhat unremarkable Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack. While there are some instances of noticable surround use scattered throughout the soundtrack, the film's presentation is pretty front-heavy, only putting the surrounds to decent use for reinforcement of the score. In fact, Randy Edelman's score gets quite a bit of presence, sounding surprisingly robust and full throughout the picture. Dialogue remains crisp and natural, as well.
Commentaries: Director David Dobkin has his own commentary, while writers Alfred Gough & Miles Millar are together for their own track. Did "Shanghai Knights" really need two feature-length explanations? After listening to these two commentaries, the obvious answer of "no" is confirmed: although the writers do manage to have some fun and riff on the situations in the movie, Dobkin seems to spend a lot of time talking about the story that's currently going by or how wonderful everyone was. The writers are guilty of the same, but they seem like they're having more fun.
Deleted Scenes: A 28-minute set of deleted scenes provides a surprising amount of entertainment and confirmation that some scenes felt (or at least they seemed to me) like a lot (or, in a couple of cases, too much) of information was taken out. It seems like some of the film's best bits - both comedy and action - were left on the cutting room floor. Great action and some excellent one-liners from Wilson can be found throughout this reel.
Also: A 9-minute featurette on the film's fight scenes and the return of Buena Vista's wonderfully worthless "Action Overload" supplement, which we haven't seen in ages. All it is is a 2-minute group of clips turned into a music video (or, in this case, a silent film). Although promos for "Recruit" and "Bringing Down the House" are seen before the feature, no trailers for "Shanghai Knights" or "Shanghai Noon" are offered, surprisingly.
Final Thoughts: Funny but almost instantly forgettable, "Shanghai Knights" has its moments, but there are stretches where I started to feel the jokes not click. Buena Vista's DVD offers a respectable amount of supplements and good audio/video quality. Worth checking out as a rental for those seeking some mindless fun.