1 Store289 Reviews
Pros: Lucy Liu and Jackie Chan's Native American "wife" are undeniably HOT, Nice Sets & Costumes
Cons: Owen Wilson, Hackneyed Plot, Sub-standard Fights & Stunts, Sleep-Inducing Length
It's the established Epinions convention to begin movie reviews with the obligatory plot summary, but it's not all that necessary with a movie like this. Surely anyone reading this is already all-too-familiar with the plot of Shanghai Noon, and although it's possible you may say you're not, believe me when I say you almost certainly are. Lord knows how many times the same hackneyed "unlikely partners join up to save the girl" plot has been overdone, (even more overdone than 'the prisoner who acts sick, then attacks the guards when they come in' bit) and this one recycles all the conventions. You've got the diametrically opposed cultures, the local native and the "fish-out-of-water", the initial animosity that becomes brotherly love through cheesy male-bonding sequences... Just think "Rush Hour in the old west" and you've succeeded in visualizing Shanghai Noon perfectly.
But as cliche' as I knew its plot would be (along with virtually all film's other elements), I actually had relatively high hopes for Shanghai Noon since, as with any Jackie Chan film to date, I was expecting nothing more than mindless entertainment anyway. Who could have known how truly mindless it turned out to be?
As you also likely know, Shanghai Noon stars Jackie Chan as Chinese Imperial guardsman Chon Wang, and Owen Wilson (perhaps better known as "Matthew McConaughey Lite") as village idiot Roy O'Bannon. Despite being a fellow Austinite, I've never been a fan of McConaughey, and I'm even less enamoured of his bastard twin sibling from hell Wilson whose prior work includes such masterpieces as The Haunting, Bottle Rocket, and Anaconda. I don't believe I've ever quite heard such an annoying combination of whiny, artifical southern drawl and the strained attempt at nonchalance that Owen Wilson demonstrates every moment he's on screen. The Austin Chronicle, never known to be the most geographically-unbiased of publications, wrote something to the effect of "it is impossible to overstate just how great Owen Wilson's performance is" in their Shanghai Noon review. In fact, if memory serves correctly, that was the Chronicle reviewer's exact quote verbatim (Wilson, a la McConaughey, also graduated from UT Austin). In that same vein, I can unequivocally state that it is impossible to understate the annoyingness of Wilson's very presence every time he opens his mouth.
The annoyingness truly manifests itself during scenes such as the jailbreak halfway through the film, when Wang uses "unconventional means" to free them from their cell, all while O'Bannon sits by and demonstrates his pressing need to share his every thought like some kind of spoken-word performance piece (my apologies to all spoken-word artists reading this for the implied denigration of their art). Watching Wilson "act" is like witnessing the compressed distillation of every Austin slacker stereotype in human form. And in a human form that can neither act nor be funny, no less.
Unfortunately, the plague of Owen Wilson must have been even more contagious than previously thought, since even Jackie Chan himself seemed to have succumbed to its infestation. Not that he was ever a comedic master in the first place, but Chan's talent for physical comedy is undeniable. Yet even most of his attempts at comic relief (yes, comic "relief"; in a so-called "comedy" such as this one, any true humor could qualify as comic relief) simply fell flat. And whether it's his age or simply shoddy film-making (likely a combination of both), neither Chan's stunts nor the fight scenes were anything close to what he displayed in his prime, or even in films from a few years ago. In a film like this that's begging to be saved by the masterful stunt sequences that have been Chan's signature for decades, it's actually rather depressing to see how clearly Chan's career is nearing its inevitable end; if such drivel as Shanghai Noon is any indication, let's hope he's willing to cut his losses before things get really out of hand.
Equally inexcusable is how easily 15-20 minutes of screen time could (and should) have been cut from this film, the inclusion of which was practically sleep inducing. Scene after scene smacked of the director who cannot grasp the concept of "less is more", and has become so emotionally attached to every foot of celluloid that he can't bear to see a bit of it fall to the editing room floor despite its obvious mediocrity. With so many extended scenes devoted to hapless attempts at character development (a seemingly 15-minute long sequence where O'Bannon teaches Wang the tricks of the cowboy trade, for example) and the same joke repeated ad-nauseam (e.g. the 'bathtub drinking game'), I couldn't help but think the director must have been either hopelessly inept or a complete novice to the profession. It turns out he was both, since this was actually his debut (and, surprise surprise, ONLY) film.
I can only pray that Rush Hour 2 will be half as painful.
Trivia Tidbit #1: Matthew McConaughey has one of the luxury boxes at Darrell K. Royal Memorial Stadium, a.k.a. the home field of the Texas Longhorns. He can typically be spotted waving to and ogling the scantily clad females in the student sections below.
Trivia Tidbit #2: Contrary to popular belief, Owen Wilson is unrelated to Matthew McConaughey, nor was he cloned from McConaughey's mutated prostate cells.
Trivia Tidbit #3: Unconfirmed rumor has it that Owen Wilson ad-libbed a large portion of his lines in this film. Which helps to explain why he sucked so badly.
Trivia Tidbit #4: The father of Epinionator Vic Wang is actually named John Wang. Thankfully, he had nothing to do with the production of this film.
Thanks for reading,