ninth symphony films - movie reviews


DIRECTOR  -  david dobkin

RATED  -  pg-13

GENRE  -  action

LENGTH  -  114 minutes

RELEASED  -  7 february 2003

DISTRIBUTOR  -  touchstone pictures

OFFICIAL SITE  -  shanghai knights

ESTIMATED BUDGET  -  $50,000,000
shanghai knights - a shot from the film


buy the dvd from shanghai knights at

buy the dvd from shanghai knights at

1880's cowboys chon wang and roy o’bannon travel to london to save wang's sister and avenge his father's death.

jackie chan kept an online diary during the filming of this movie, available to the public on his web site.


picture from shanghai knights

picture from shanghai knights

picture from shanghai knights


three out of four possible stars

Shanghai Knights takes quite a liberal stance on historical dates and accuracy, but as long as one doesn't mind that the English didn't invent the machine gun, Hollywood didn't exist in the 1880's, and that a certain very famous film star wasn't even born when the film takes place, the laughs and "chop socky" attitude of this film should add up to good entertainment. Since the main focus of the film is the signature Jackie Chan martial arts sequences and the comedic banter between his co-star, Owen Wilson, and Jackie, looking into history books to confirm certain dates and facts seems like an exercise in futility.

And when taking into account the purpose of this picture (to make people laugh, wow the audience with the action sequences), the film adds up very well. What is a mystery though is how the relatively modest box office take of this films predecessor, Shanghai Noon, warranted a sequel. Pulling in around 60 million dollar (just about the budget of the film), Noon wasn't a roaring domestic box office success. Though it probably did well in Chan's birthplace, Hong Kong, it still didn't break any records. What is even more confusing though is the fact that this film eclipses the original in action sequences and comedy.

The pairing of Wilson and Chan (playing "Chon Wang" and "Roy O'Bannon," respectively) seems much more natural in this picture, and the comedy is more forthcoming and easy to digest. Both men are talented in front of the camera, and this film shows their proficiency to the best advantage. Wilson's ability to make everything that comes out of his mouth sound completely unrehearsed as to the freshness of his role. A type of role that has been inhabited by several supporting stars in more than a few Jackie Chan comedies (take a look at Rush Hour and The Tuxedo). But Wilson makes his spot on the poster just as important as is Jackie's.

And as for the supporting cast members who didn't make it onto the poster, Fann Wong, who plays "Chon Lin," the sister of Jackie Chan's character, it's a shame the graphic designers didn't have enough room for her on the poster too, because her performance was excellent. With a combination of a stunning wardrobe, a surprising natural sense of humor (she hasn't known English for too long yet), and some kick-ass martial arts moves, she creates a Renaissance woman of a character. Somehow though, every single performance wasn't exactly top notch. Aiden Gillen, who originally hails from Dublin, Ireland, wasn't always the most serious in his portrayal of bad guy "Rathbone," even though his character was supposed to be just that.

As the villain in the film, Rathbone needed to be completely evil (which he is), but some of his dialogue comes off less serious than it should. It's clear he made the effort, but the delivery (perhaps his English accent was off?) wasn't always convincing. Tom Fisher's performance as the stuffily British "Detective Artie" seemed right on the button though. As the Scotland Yard detective Wang and Roy deal with in London, Fisher makes his character both sympathetic and hilarious. Of course, English members of the audience might take offense to the plethora of jokes that concern the British and their "quirks." Of course, this author, not being British, found the jokes to be quite entertaining.

And that sentiment can be applied to just about every frame of the film. The film hits all the familiar (read: predictable) spots, but does it without excuses for the simplicity of its design. That might be the reason the film is a success as pure vapid entertainment. The vibrant time period and well choreographed stunt sequences aside (which include Jackie Chan doing his best Singing In The Rain imitation), the film lands on its feet more often than not. Although the running time seems to hang on for a minute or two longer than is needed, the slow spots of the film really aren't "slow." They're just leisurely edited.

Possessing a firmer hand in the editing room is probably the only thing which might have made this film any better than it could have been. Admittedly, the film has a few sagging spots in the late second act (about seventy five minutes into the movie), but the action sequences in the final ten or fifteen minutes relieves most of any harm done by long running time. An often forgotten aspect in action films, the soundtrack (or, more accurately, the score), is quite good. Impressively good on some tracks. Composed by Randy Edelman, the score includes a particularly powerful opening track. And as for the entire film, Shanghai Knights has a long list of positive attributes, owing muchly to its talented stars and choreographer.

Review by Kelsey Wyatt.

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