Owen For All and All for Chan
Shanghai Knights
Review by Ross Anthony

I found the earlier pairing of Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan in "Shanghai Noon" so bridled with entertainment and movie fun that I was quoted and criticized for giving it a grade higher than "Citizen Kane" (which I'd also re-seen that year). I make no apologies for that. In fact, if I were asked today which film to rent, I'd still suggest Owen over Orson.

But that's a topic for another day. "Knights" isn't quite as smashing as "Noon," but it is still smashing and hosts at least one cinematically classic scene. Jackie's truly inspired choreography constructs a simply magical umbrella bout that plays tongue in cheek homage to "Singin' in the Rain." His tumbling tussle with this retracting bumbershoot is a comic ballet that would have turned the heads of Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor. The cinematography, musical score and Chan's splendid good humor/ athletic agility make this sequence something that will (or should) appear on movie classic shows for many years to come. You will love it!

But "Knights" also hosts the smirk-faced whit of Owen Wilson as Roy O'Bannon, the lying, cheating, stealing, sidekick with a heart of gold. His slippery behavior plays perfect complement to Jackie's unmoveable loyalty as Chon Wang, Imperial Guard from China. If you're a fan of Owen (as I am) click here for my interview with him.

Though the film opens with a unique grandiose and impressive score backing exotic and engaging images, the action only stumbles into play. And that score ping-pongs between original and cheaply rote, but it's always loud, occasionally evoking the feeling of an amusement park ride. The picture too, at times slows like a carousal nearing a full stop; but just at those points something happens to spark the circus up again. And the cinematography is always big, always strong. Kudos to the costuming as well; after all, this action-comedy is still a period piece. And the supporting actors play strong too: Aaron Johnson, Thomas Fisher, Aidan Gillen, Fann Wong (as Chon's sister Lynn).

Intentionally (I assume) resurrecting the flair of Bing & Bob and Lou & Bud; a cheesy twisting plot plays backdrop to Jackie & Owen's playful banter and physical comedy. And it certainly works.

  • Shanghai Knights. Copyright © 2003. PG-13.
  • Starring Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Aaron Johnson, Thomas Fisher, Aidan Gillen, Fann Wong, Donnie Yen.
  • Directed by David Dobkin.
  • Screenplay by Alfred Gough, Miles Millar.
  • Produced by Roger Birnbaum, Gary Barber, Jonathan Glickman at Spyglass/Touchstone.


Copyright © 2001. Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit: RossAnthony.com

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Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:53:39 PDT