Shanghai Noon is the film Rush Hour was meant to be, a hilarious, frenetic action/comedy which sees Jackie form a believable partnership with an American comedy actor. The fight scenes and stunts are excellent as always and the physical comedy is tremendous. Even the script is decent providing laugh after laugh.
The film tells the story of Princess Pei Pei played by Lucy Liu. She is frustrated at life in the Forbidden City and is duped into running away, unfortunately for her, she ends up the captive of an evil traitorous profiteer. Jackie plays an Imperial guard known as Chon Wang (to sound like John Wayne). He sets out for the west to rescue the princess and falls in with Roy O´Bannon (Owen Wilson) a laidback outlaw. Together they must survive the evil badguy, a scary posse hunting them, the other Imperial guards and even Roy´s old gang.
Jackie Chan is a world superstar and deservedly so, although his success in America has been more recent. Real fans of Chan will know that his best films were made in Hong Kong but comparing the various American releases this is the best of the bunch. Jackie is always great to watch, his action sequences are breathtaking, his stunts are frighteningly dangerous, his physical comedy is expertly executed. These things are always in Jackie´s movies though. The difference with this is that the script is very funny and Wilson´s character contrasts really well with Jackie, they play off one another.
The film sets and costumes are believable, the stunts and explosions look real and exciting, the action is choreographed to perfection by Chan and his team. Best of all the comedy is top notch. I found Rock in Rush Hour tried to over power Jackie, they failed to realise that Jackie has huge charisma and a great sense of comedy, he doesn´t always have to play the straight man. However in this film he is partly the straight guy and partly the comedian, the main duo seem to alternate the straight guy role and work really well together, Wilson and his laidback sarcastic style fit perfectly with the energy filled Jackie. The scene where they are trying to escape from jail was especially funny, I loved the look on Wilson´s face when Chan turns to him and says "here hold this" (you´ll have to watch the film to find out what).
The film was directed by Tom Dey but realistically there were obviously alot of creative influences involved and certain scenes were more or less directed by Jackie (the fight with the Native Americans for example). Jackie Chan is a talented film maker and has experience of most aspects of filmmaking, on this film he has been credited as an executive producer.
East meets West and the result is very funny. I worried about the tone of the film, with the whole cultural domination thing which is always evident in American films, but luckily it is not too bad, the worst part is the stupid line about how the sun may rise in the East but it sets in the West. US films seem unable to highlight cultural differences without at least hinting that they are superior.
The film carries a 12 certificate although I can´t remember anything unsuitable for kids. There is plenty of violence but Jackie is a master at lightening it and making it funny. His often injured body is still capable of performing stunning action scenes and stunts, although the American films are never as dangerous as those he made in Hong Kong.
Now that Hollywood has belatedly caught on to how incredible Chan is some of his older films are being rereleased for the new audience. If you only know him from his more recent efforts then I would recommend you seek out some of his older films. The Drunken Master, The Armour of God, Wheels on Meals, Project A II, the Police Story trilogy and Dragons Forever are all fantastic. The stunts and action sequences are incomparable, no body does this stuff better than Jackie Chan.
If you like comedy then this film is a great choice and is bound to make you laugh. If you prefer action then this will still satisfy, but some of Jackie´s older films will blow you away with their intensity and insane stunts. Wilson and Chan make a great comedy duo and it seems likely they will be re-united in the sequel. After watching this I will definitely be looking out for the next one.