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|August 24, 2000||
Chan does a Quick Gun Murugan!
Making a good Western flick has certain essential prerequisites: Horses. Indians. A brawl in a bar. A duel on an empty street. A public hanging. A runaway horse and wagon. A damsel in distress. A railroad robbery. An inebriated male bonding session.
Shanghai Noon has all this and twice as many laughs. It's all that Wild, Wild West tried to be but wasn't. The film, paying comic tribute to Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, combines several revered film genres -- action thriller, cross-cultural comedy, buddy movie and the fish-out-of-water story.
There's also the ageless appeal of Jackie Chan's abundant acrobatic stunts, always the highlight of his movies.
The American costar formula continues to thrive and flourish. Last time, it was smooth-talking Chris Tucker (Rush Hour, 1998). This time, it's the chemistry between slippery and laidback Owen Wilson and the tongue-in-cheek Chan that sets the Prairies afire, as Wilson teaches Chan how to sling a gun and say, 'Howdy, pardner.' Chan, in turn, teaches Wilson a Chinese drinking game.
In this mindless action adventure, Chon Wang (Jackie Chan), a bumbling palace guard in the Forbidden City, goes West -- to America in the 1880s -- to rescue kidnapped princess Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu). On his way, he picks up a horse, an Indian wife (Brandon Merrill), an incompetent and slippery outlaw companion Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson). He also battles cowboys, Indians, bad guy Lo Fong (Roger Yuan) and a psychotic marshal (Xander Berkeley), who dog our heroes as they search for the princess.
Along the way, both actors get ample time to strut their stuff. Chan is loveable as the good-at-heart bumbler, stumbling from one awkward social encounter to the next. He speaks mostly with his flying hands and nimble feet, armed only with an irresistible smile and dazzling defences (he is remarkably inventive, using horseshoes tied to rope ends, tree limbs, antlers and a sheriff's badge as weapons, to name but a few).
Shanghai Noon is Wilson's big break. Best known as the oil-rigger/astronaut of Armageddon and the enthusiastic ghost-hunter of The Haunting, Wilson is deliciously charming as the inept outlaw. He's casual and playful. A perfect foil to Chan's highly moral, no-fooling-around, dedicated man on a mission.
Three scenes, one involving an Indian campfire, the other, a Chinese drinking game, and the last, a shoot out in the church, are especially enjoyable.
The women in Shanghai Noon are shortchanged, though. Brandon Merrill is seen too briefly as the Indian bride and Lucy Liu (of Payback and Ally McBeal) doesn't have a lot to do, though she does throw out some punches. Hopefully, she will be on better display in her forthcoming venture, Charlie's Angels, with Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz.
The film is a trifle long for a Western action-comedy. But with Jackie Chan movies, almost anything can be salvaged with the actor's charm. Its infectious humour and high-spirited entertainment are a surefire crowd-pleaser.
Go ahead. Enjoy the thrills, spills and laughs. Be sure to stay on for the bloopers that come after the credits, though, because first-timer Tom Dey's saved the best for last!
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