East meets West in two wildly hilarious comedies starring legendary action star Jackie Chan and funnyman Owen Wilson. Experience Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights for the first time on Blu-ray, featuring new digital restoration with enhanced picture and sound.
Chinese Imperial Guard Chon Wang is in for a real kick when he travels to the rough and tumble Old West to rescue the beautiful kidnapped princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu). Teamed with laid-back cowboy outlaw Roy O’Bannon, the two mismatched partners face jail, brawls and the vilest villains this side of the Great Wall. Then jump in the saddle for the wild and wooly sequel as the two unlikely heroes make their way to London on a daring quest for honor and revenge. These two uproarious comic adventures are even better on Blu-ray!
When East meets West in 'Shanghai Noon,' the jokes are as swift and immediate as the roundhouse kicks thrown by Jackie Chan's Chon Wang, a name that sounds comically similar to John Wayne. Like the fastest gunslinger in the middle of a duel, the comedy-action western spits out puns like bullets at rapid-fire speed, hoping that at least one of them will hit you in the funny bone sooner or later. A combination of fish-out-of-water culture clashes, which includes a genre clash of martial arts meets western, and buddy comedy, the movie is a rowdy, boisterous good time at the movies.
Making it work so effortlessly is the fantastic timing of Chan and Owen Wilson, who play off each other seamlessly and with a great deal of amusing energy. Unsuspectingly bringing his Kung Fu skills to a gunfight, Chan's imperial guard is sent from the Forbidden City to Carson City, Nevada to rescue the princess (Lucy Liu) from villainous traitor Lo Fong (Roger Yuan chewing up the scenery as deadly foe dressed in black). Aiding in this honorable quest is Wilson's Roy Banning, who hilariously fancies himself an outlaw and acts offended when the bounty on his head is less than Chan. The plot is not particularly special, but it serves its purpose of uniting these two often funny actors; Wilson's suave, smooth-talking charm meets its match in Chan's serious, disciplined sense of duty.
From a script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, the same writing duo that created 'Spider-Man 2' and 'Smallville' but also made us suffer through 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' and 'Showtime,' the martial-arts western has some fun flinging a few clever jabs at both genres while also throwing together some surprisingly amusing anachronistic moments, such as in the name of the characters and song selections. Director Tom Dey, making his directorial debut here, borrows heavily from John Ford's style of displaying a spectacular, mythic vision of the American West. Rather than being a drawback, this is actually part of the charm and enjoyment of 'Shanghai Noon,' a wildly funny and action-packed buddy comedy. (Movie Rating: 4/5)
Chan and Wilson take their buddy comedy act on the road and across the pond in 'Shanghai Knights,' another screwball of anachronistic humor that's not as good as its predecessor but comes pretty darn close. After a brief but action-packed intro where we find out Chan's Chon Wang has a disapproving father and a beautiful baby sister, Lin (Fann Wong), audiences catch up with Chon as a successful sheriff. Meanwhile, dime novels are written about Wilson's Roy O'Bannon and his fantastical adventures fighting zombies and mummies. Keeping to Roy's tough outlaw image, the "Shanghai Kid" is relegated to being the spineless sidekick in need of Roy's heroism, much to Wang's dismay. It's not until news of his father's death, however, that Wang hits the road in search of Roy, who is living the high-life in New York.
It's a quick and clever bit of exposition that speedily relates what our heroes have been up to after the events of the first movie while also setting up a series of witty jokes and references. After discovering Roy has badly invested Chon's share of the gold and is scraping by as a gigolo waiter, the film swiftly moves into a series of cultural jabs and allusions to classic Hollywood cinema, starting with a very amusing clash between the Keystone cops and Chan's usual physical hijinks. Once in England, the filmmakers also pay homage to Gene Kelly's 'Singin' in the Rain' and Harold Lloyd's legendary clock-tower stunt from 'Safety Last!' All the while, the rest of the soundtrack plays swinging 60s British pop. Since the duo manages to help Arthur Conan Doyle (Thomas Fisher), our murderous villain, Lord Nelson Rathbone (Aidan Gillen), could be a sly reference to Basil Rathbone, actor best remembered as Sherlock Holmes.
A good deal of the charm and wit in 'Shanghai Knights' is found in these often comical winks at classic works, but thankfully, it doesn't rely too much on them. One or two anachronistic jokes are so far off their mark they become more confusing than funny. (Sorry, Roy, but moving pictures started in New York; Hollywood didn't play a significant role for another twenty years!) Working from another script by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, director David Dobkin ('Wedding Crashers') wisely maintains focus on the dynamics of the two main characters while allowing the chemistry between Chan and Wilson provide the hilarious drive. The plot is bit more contrived and convoluted than previously, but the screwball humor and high-energy hijinks remain the same, making 'Knights' a satisfyingly enjoyable follow-up to the first misadventure. (Movie Rating: 3.5/5)
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
From Buena Vista and Walt Disney Home Entertainment, 'Shanghai Noon' and 'Shanghai Knights' arrive to Blu-ray as a single disc double feature, dubbed the "2-Movie Collection." The Region Free, BD-50 disc is housed inside a blue, eco-elite keepcase and commences with a couple of skippable trailers. Afterwards, viewers are given the choice between the two films before switching to a static menu screen with music.
Bringing swords to a gunfight, the comedy-action western arrives to HD with a generally satisfying if only mildly troubled 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1). For the most part, the picture quality is excellent with lots of sharp detailing in the hair, clothing and architecture of the many wooden buildings. Landscape and scenery shots, in particular, are beautiful and stunning with well-defined lines in the trees, foliage and the tops of hills and mountains. The color palette is bold and energetic with animated primaries and warm, attractive secondary hues.
Skin tones appear healthy with natural, sometimes very revealing textures, but there are a few scenes where the cast can look flushed and sickly. It's possible this is related to the slight contrast boost given to this HD transfer, creating a bit of ringing around some edges and blooming the highlights, which the creates some noticeable clipping. Black levels are mildly affected by this as well, but they look rich and deep accurately for the most, making this an enjoyable watch but slightly troubled. (Video Rating: 3.5/5)
Regrettably, things don't get much better in the sequel, which features a passable yet somewhat disappointing AVC-encoded transfer. The picture shows that, once again, contrast is running hotter than it should, causing a bit of clipping and blooming in the highlights. But unlike the first movie, this affects pretty much the entire presentation and tends to exaggerate the natural grain structure to the extent of looking like mild mosquito noise in many scenes. Resolution also takes a small nosedive in these same moments, ruining much of the detailing and clarity. Although there are instances of sharp, distinct lines to be found in the video, they are far and few in between. The majority of the color palette is somewhat dull and listless, except strangely for the reds, and facial complexions are generally pale and flushed. Black levels are mostly good and deep, but they also come off a bit too strong with one or two cases of crush in the darker portions. (Video Rating: 3/5)
Kung-fu fighting cowboys shanghai Blu-ray with a head-scratching Dolby Digital soundtrack. Many years into the format and we're still seeing legacy codecs being used as the only audio option, which is somewhat infuriating and gravely disappointing. Thankfully, the comedy-action western is able to deliver the goods, in spite of this minor annoyance. The front soundstage is wide and welcoming with excellent channel separation and clean, precise vocals in the center. Plenty of off-screen effects keep imaging active while a few atmospherics are sprinkled into the rears for an ambience that's generally satisfying. The mid-range is surprisingly detailed with good clarity in the upper frequencies while low bass packs a nice, healthy punch, especially when it comes to the score and song selections. (Audio Rating: 4/5)
As in the first movie, so goes the sequel, and it's with the aid of another head-scratching legacy Dolby Digital soundtrack of all things. It's not quite as impressive or active as the original 'Shanghai,' but it's still very good and satisfying. Mostly a front-heavy presentation, imaging fells broad and expansive with great channel separation and plenty of off-screen effects. Dialogue is clean and precise, so viewers don't miss out on a single joke or silly pun. Although never really pushed very far, the lossy mix exhibits excellent dynamic range with well-defined clarity in each action sequence. Low bass isn't as deep and hearty as the first movie, but the lower frequencies are present and quite evident in a few sequences. Rears occasionally deliver some good ambient effects, but they're mostly employed by the score and song selections. (Audio Rating: 3.5/5)
In 'Shanghai Noon,' the combination of Jackie Chan's physical comedy and Owen Wilson's witty line delivery produced the perfect mixture of parody in a martial-arts action western. Though the plot wasn't as strong, the pair reunited and delivered another barrel of high-energy hijinks and goofy cultural jabs in 'Shanghai Knights.' The Blu-ray arrives with slightly troubled but still passable picture quality and, in spite of only providing legacy Dolby Digital soundtracks, the audio presentations of both films are far more satisfying. The same sets of supplements are carried over from the previous DVDs, but the overall package makes a decent purchase for fans. Worth a look.