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SHANGHAI NOON (2000)
Taking place in the 19th century, this comedy/action/western begins when Princess Pei Pei runs away from The Forbidden City with her English Tutor to America, to escape an arranged marriage. The wily English tutor takes her to Carson City, where she becomes the prisoner of a former imperial guard, the dastardly Lo Fong, who holds Pei Pei for a ransom demand. An Imperial Guard delegation and Chon Wang who tags along, is sent to America with the ransom gold. After their train was robbed, Chon Wang becomes separated from his party, and starts his own quest to rescue the princess. Along the way, Chon makes some unlikely alliances with an Indian tribe, and a small-time robber, Roy O'Bannon, with whom he shares misadventures and dangerous situations.
The cast includes: Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Lucy Liu, Brandon Merrill, Roger Yuan, Xander Berkeley, Walt Goggins, Jason Connery, Rongguang Yu, Ya Hi Cui, Eric Chen, Russell Badger, Simon Baker III, and Sam Simon.
Directed by Tom Dey. Written by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough.
Promotional Lines: "The old west meets
the far east."
To avoid marrying a "toad," of a prince, trusting Pei Pei runs away from the Forbidden City with her English tutor, Mr. Andrews (Jason Connery) who promises to take her to his friend in America, who has a "large estate" in Carson City. Only when the two arrive, do we learn that the whole thing was a setup. An ex-Imperial Guard, Lo Fong, had paid the tutor to take the princess to him, so he could ask a ransom from the royal family.
Pei Pei's father (Chang Tseng) commissions 3 of his best Imperial Guardsmen to bring the ransom gold to Carson City. Chon Wang, an Imperial Guard not exactly in high ranking, begs to go too. His uncle, who is accompanying the Imperial Guards, convinces the father to let Chon Wang go along to carry the bags, etc.
The train, that this Chinese envoy, who were staying in the caboose are traveling on, is robbed by Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and his gang, who had made the mistake of recruiting a crazy Texan, Wallace (Walt Goggins). Wallace kills Chon Wang's uncle, who had just come into the train passenger car to get some water. After a fight scene, Chon Wang is separated from the other surviving Imperial Guards as he strikes out on his own to try to find Carson City, taking a few detours along the way. Chon Wang runs into an incapacitated Roy O'Bannon, whose gang had turned on him, and left him in a helpless state in the hot sun. In a unique predicament in the middle of nowhere, Roy finds himself face to face with an upset Imperial Guard, who blames him for his uncle's death, demanding to know the way to Carson City. And so it goes.
This entertaining, imaginative screenplay, by Miles Millar and Alfred Gough offers the audience a perfect blend of comedy, adventure, action and martial arts. Millar and Gough met each other while working on the screenplay for "Lethal Weapon 4," and have since co-written several screenplays, such as "Made Men," "Doubletap," and "Showtime." The clever comical banter between the various characters adds humor and a lighter tone to this action oriented, martial arts adventure. To add to the authenticity, subtitles were used in the scenes taking place in China, which helps convince the audience that they are glimpsing a seldom seen world inside The Forbidden City in China. Also, subtitles were used during the Indian scenes, when Wang is taken back to the Sioux Indian Camp after saving the Chief's son, which is a quite humorous part of the screenplay, as it leads to unsuspected consequences for Wang, that do help him out later in future jams.
This talented cast, under the fine direction of Tom Dey, his first directing effort, makes the screenplay come alive, as their best efforts shine through the great material written for them. Jackie Chan, as the honest, dedicated, courageous Chon Wang, does a terrific job, show casing his marvelous sense of humor, his acting ability, as well as treating the audience to some fine martial arts action scenes. His amazing martial arts skill is showcased during his one man battle against 6 Crow Indians, while protecting the Sioux Chief's son, Little Feather, (Simon Baker 111). Also, the saloon fight where he once again runs into Roy for the second time, is great also, as he takes on hostile cowboys with a pair of moose antlers, among other feats. The most amazing action scene is when he defeats about 6 men of the Marshall Nathan Van Cleef's posse, with only a horse shoe tied to a rope. Jackie learned how to do this, right on the set, from Eric Chen, one of the three talented martial arts men hired to play the Imperial Guards. Chen is a specialist in Chinese martial arts.
The other Imperial Guards were played by talented martial arts men, Rongguang Yu, and Ya Hi Cui, in their first American film.
Owen Wilson is an actor of many talents, and comedic timing and delivery are two of them. He excels as Roy O'Bannon, an easygoing, personable train robber who eventually turns into Wang's sidekick to help guide and protect Chon Wang, as he strives to rescue Princess Pei Pei.
Wilson and Chan make quite a pair of miss-matched heroes, and both actors work well together in buddy fashion to ban together against evil, in between humorous banter between them, and various escapades that they find themselves in the middle of.
The dastardly villains, with no redeeming qualities at all, were well played by Roger Yuan as the sinister, heartless Lo Fong, and Xander Berkeley, as the psychopathic Marshall Nathan Van Cleef, who definitely holds a grudge.
Lucy Liu was perfectly cast as Princess Pei Pei, playing the role of a royal person quite convincingly. Liu has gotten her degree in Chinese Studies, and fully understood the makeup of her character, which she keeps true to form throughout the film.
Both Roger Yuan (also in "Lethal Weapon") and Lucy Liu also have martial arts skills, which were put to good use during the action sequences.
The ending scenes prove to be an action-packed, martial arts, shoot-em - up bonanza, with humor and suspense added for good measure.
The film in total offers a lot in entertainment, that should be enjoyed by most people over 13 years old. PG-13 for action violence, some drug humor, potty words and sensuality.