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Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights(2000-2003)
Acrobatic Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang comes to the Wild West to rescue beautiful, kidnapped Princess Pei Pei. Upon transporting her ransom, Chon finds himself on the very train that Roy O'Bannon, an outlaw of dubious competence, plans to rob. They reluctantly become partners when faced with bad-seed Marshall Van Cleef who'd rather neither one of them make it off the train alive.
For more about Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights and the Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray release, see the Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on May 9, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Tom Fisher (XV), Brandon Merrill, Aidan Gillen
Directors: David Dobkin, Tom Dey
This Blu-ray release includes the following titles, see individual titles for specs and details:
Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray Review
Western swagger, Eastern kung fu. A marriage for the ages...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, May 9, 2013
In the wasteland of promising trilogies that never came to fruition stands the Shanghai franchise. While too far removed from the side-splittingly riotous genre send-ups Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights devotees insist the films represent, each action-comedy is a flawed but wildly entertaining blast of East-meets-West fun. Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson are a surprisingly strong pairing, the action is fast and funny, and there's enough fan service paid to kung fu junkies, slapstick-stunt fanatics and deadpan-comedy connoisseurs to hold the rickety 19th century Western (mis)adventures together to their bitter, all too conventional ends. So never mind the would-be trilogy that died a lonely early-noughts death. Even judged on their own merit, Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights still have plenty to offer, particularly as a rainy day double feature.
Late-19th century Imperial China crashes into the American Old West when an imperial guard named Jiang Wen (Jackie Chan) travels to the States to rescue kidnapped princess, Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu). Before you can say dysfunctional duo, Wen finds an unlikely ally in scorned outlaw Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), but only after traveling the long and rocky road to reluctant friendship. Soon Wen (dubbed "Chon Wang" by his new partner) is learning how to be a cowboy, honing skills that earn him the nickname The Shanghai Kid, and making his way to Carson City, where Pei-Pei is being held. Roy learns a thing or two along the way as well -- honor, sacrifice, how to be a decent human being -- and starts thinking about someone other than himself. With the help of an American Indian woman named Falling Leaves (Brandon Merrill), Wen and Roy take the fight to Chinese traitor Lo Fong (Roger Yuan) and U.S. Marshal Nathan Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley), and battle to free Pei-Pei from her captors.
Shanghai Noon digs in its heels, plants its tongue firmly in its cheek, and winks at the audience as often as it drops playful references to history, 1880s inventions, period culture and gunslinger staples. In fact, there are so many jokes and sight gags flying at the screen at any given moment that the film almost feels like a string of loosely connected laughs and nods. It's all done with such enthusiasm, though, that it hardly matters. This is Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson having fun with the films and serials of their childhoods, and doing whatever it takes to earn the most grins from the most moviegoers in the process. If that doesn't sit well with you, Shanghai Noon will be a tough slog through muddy genre waters. If that sounds like your shot of whiskey, Chan and Wilson's rapidfire delivery will go down nice and smooth.
There's a reasonably clever, confident script at work here (from screenwriters Alfred Gough and Miles Millar), a fairly clever, confident director behind the camera in Tom Dey, and an unmistakably clever, confident cast eager to chew scenery and spit out action-comedy gold. And, hit or miss as the movie tends to be, clever and confident go a long way. Chan's martial arts, in particular, amount to a hypnotic dervish of fists, feet and props sure to drop jaws and elicit cheers. His stuntwork isn't of the eerie, death-defying variety (Drunken Master II anyone?), but it is magnificently inventive, and matches Wilson's snark hit for hit, leap for leap. Is Shanghai Noon a perfect film? Not even close. But the joy is as much in what it gets right as it somehow is in its imperfections, and the raw energy Chan and Wilson exude while embracing everything that comes their way is infectious and worthy of a sequel.
Jiang Wen, now a successful Carson City lawman, and Roy O'Bannon, now a financially strapped New York City hotel waiter, reunite and head to England to avenge the death of Wen's father (Kim Chan) and reclaim an invaluable Imperial Seal, stolen by the murderous Lord Nelson Rathbone (Game of Thrones' Aidan Gillen). Lost and out-of-place in London, O'Bannon and the Shanghai Kid tour the city, make a few new friends (among them Thomas Fisher as deductive reason pioneer Artie Doyle), don disguises, infiltrate a masquerade ball and eventually stumble across a villainous plot that hinges on the possession of the Imperial Seal. With Wen's sister Chon Lin (Fann Wong) at their side (Roy's especially, much to Wen's dismay), the boys race to prevent Rathbone, the Chinese emperor's illegitimate brother Wu Chow (Donnie Yen) and his hard-hitting partner in crime Lead Boxer Liu (Tom Wu) from rising to power.
Not to be outdone, Shanghai Knights ups the ante in every way imaginable. The action is more explosive and pressing. The kung fu is more ferocious and frenetic. The stunts are bigger, the set pieces grander, the stakes that much higher. And the jokes come at an almost blinding speed, assaulting the funny bone with more tickles and jabs-per-minute than Shanghai Noon mustered in its best stretches. It's almost too much movie... is too much movie, to the point that the cast and filmmakers all but break the fourth wall. The result is a leaner, lighter, more invigorating spectacle that, on occasion, tries a bit too hard to be everything the first film couldn't be. For some like myself, Shanghai Knights is more enjoyable than Shanghai Noon, even though its script is less refined, its plotting and character development more one-dimensional, and its various dents and scratches more apparent. But I'm in the minority, and Knights more often leaves series fans slightly dissatisfied.
Still, there are so many memorable (I'd argue unforgettable) sequences -- among them a brilliant riff on Singin' in the Rain as an umbrella-toting Jackie Chan fends off a bevy of baddies -- that it's hard to shrug off the sequel as out-of-control style over substance. And Gillen and his cohorts in screen evil ooze villainy, which raises everyone's game. The flipside is that Chan steals the show from Wilson this time around, and the two feel less like a pairing and more like a hardened master/bumbling sidekick duo more akin to the characters in O'Bannon's published fiction than fully realized screen partners. Does it really matter, though? When the fists start flying, the swords start swinging, the Gatling guns start blaring, will any fan of the Shanghai films really begrudge director David Dobkin or scoff at the more-is-more approach to action-comedy sequelling? I imagine not. Shanghai Knights is as much fun as its predecessor, if not more so, and anyone willing to switch off the critical portions of their brain, sit back and have a good laugh will find a lot to love in this under-appreciated sophomore outing.
Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray, Video Quality
Shanghai Noon: 3/5
Shanghai Noon would look pretty good... if, that is, it weren't riddled with issues. Edge halos and ringing are frequent offenders, contrast inconsistencies are distracting (sometimes even jarring), artificial sharpening has been applied too liberally, saturation skews high, and delineation is problematic. Be that as it may, fans with diminished expectations will be mildly pleased, if for no other reason than Disney's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer outclasses its DVD counterparts. Colors are richer and primaries punchier, black levels are deeper, fine detail is more refined and apparent (more often than not), and compression anomalies aren't as prevalent. Some egregious crush spoils things, and some minor artifacting sneaks in here and there, but the encode is reasonably proficient. Obviously, more room to breathe would have been a boon (both films are crammed on a single BD-50), and a proper remaster -- one created from scratch specifically for this Blu-ray release -- would have yielded greater results. As is, Shanghai Noon eeks by, battered and bruised, but alive.
Shanghai Knights: 2/5
Shanghai Knights isn't so lucky, mainly because the contrast inconsistencies that haunt Shanghai Noon have been promoted to full-fledged nightmare. In one scene, stark black levels consume detail, hot whites add even more crush to the proceedings, skintones are oversaturated... then woefully undersaturated, and the image itself, having been subjected to invasive tweaking, no longer resembles film. In the next scene, colors are muddy and murky, with a flatness and indistinctness that inches closer and closer to a DVD upscale. Halos are everywhere too, as are the damaging fingerprints of a DVD-era master, complete with outmoded techniques used to sharpen and "improve" the already soft, dingy, terribly imperfect presentation for its Blu-ray debut. It's all still a slight -- slight -- improvement over its DVD cousins, making it an upgrade in the loosest sense. Alas, any clarity comes at the expense of ungainly enhancements, any color strength comes at the cost of unnatural, tanned and reddish hues, and its technical proficiency has its share of problems.
Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Rather than sacrifice special features or *gasp* grant each film its own disc, Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights have been wedged onto a single BD-50 disc, sans lossless audio. Instead, Noon and Knights are presented via lossy 640kbps Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks, which have their share of good, bad and ugly. Thankfully, though, the good outweighs its companions. Neither mix is what I would ever consider poor, or even mediocre for that matter, and it's important to remember than 640kbps is still an upgrade over DVD audio, and one that pays off noticeably. The films lack the crispness, raw power and exacting dynamics of lossless presentations, of course, but both tracks prove more satisfying than the faulty video transfers they accompany. Dialogue is clean and clear, without any major prioritization mishaps, and effects are given the freedom to graze and roam relatively open soundfields. The rear speakers aren't always reliable, but they do have their directional fun, and the LFE channel isn't always a force to be reckoned with, although it certainly lends its support to the films' robust action sequences. Ultimately, neither mix actually disappoints, despite the fact that disappointment is inevitable. Could they be better? Absolutely. Do they hold their own? Do they do the best they can? I'd say so. Here's hoping Disney stops this single-disc nonsense. Consumers appreciate 2-Movie Collections for the most part, but first-class quality demands higher standards -- and more discs -- than this.
Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Shanghai Noon: 2.5/5
Shanghai Knights: 2.5/5
Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights are joined at the BD-50 hip for the foreseeable future, making Disney's 2-Movie Collection release something of a letdown. The films will still delight fans as much as ever, but the video transfers suffer (the second more than the first), the dependence on lossy audio tracks isn't ideal by any means, and the recycled special features, while appreciated, aren't all that extensive or spectacular (and are presented in squint-and-you-might-figure-out-what's-going-on standard definition). Otherwise, Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights are a blast. Their Blu-ray debut isn't going to win much praise, but if you have any love of the films, the upgrade is at least notable enough to warrant a (reasonably priced) purchase.
Shanghai Noon / Shanghai Knights Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Exclusive Giveaway: Shanghai Noon/Shanghai Knights 2-Movie Collec... - May 2, 2013
Blu-ray.com and Walt Disney Home Entertainment are offering five members a chance to win a copy of the new digitally restored Shanghai Noon/Shanghai Knights 2-Movie Collection. The action comedies star Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan, and make their Blu-ray debut on ...
• Shanghai Noon & Shanghai Knights 2-Movie Collection Blu-ray - February 26, 2013
Walt Disney Home Entertainment is bringing Shanghai Noon and its sequel, Shanghai Knights, to Blu-ray via a 2-Movie Collection release. The action comedies star funnyman Owen Wilson and martial arts legend Jackie Chan, and are available for pre-order. The 2-Movie ...
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