Knight Moves

Mid-air punches seasoned generously with a dose of slapstick humour.

If "Shanghai Noon" saw Chan flex some mid-day muscle in 18th century America, its sequel prolongs the act to London in "Shanghai Knights". Having received news of his father’s murder, Chon Wang gathers old crony Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson) and moves to London to confront the murderer and retrieve the Imperial Seal that was stolen from his father. The duo has an unannounced addition in the guise of Chon Lin (Fann Wong), Wang’s younger sister, a witness to the murder.

Armed with a sidekick that he literally wants to boot, Chan has to deal with the added menace of O’Bannon making a pass at his sister. Apart from their round of shenanigans, they uncover a couple of sub-plots, kick some genuine Cockney ass and end up doing the Queen of England an enormous favour. And are subsequently knighted. Well, that’s about the plot in a fortune cookie. And now for the anatomy.

A cleverly written screenplay optimizes the time period to make mention of legends like Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper, with hilarious allusions to inventions of the century. Owen Wilson, like Chan, has terrific comedic skills fitted into an eligible character, one that flashes an intelligence he doesn’t own, while Chan makes good as a naïve foreigner who still hasn’t comprehended the fury of his fists. Weakened often by affected humour, the film still has still plenty to nourish a suffering heart.

Having assumed the directorial reins from Tom Dey, David Dobkin has managed to properly conjure that bygone atmosphere of muted tones that barely suppresses the colour of imagery. For a specimen of the action/comedy category, this one does nicely for those who like their mid-air punches seasoned generously with a dose of slapstick humour. Not exactly a benchmark in filmmaking, but a good enough way to drown a vacant day!

This article was first published on 15 Mar 2003.