One great thing about the release of older movies on Blu-ray is rediscovering movies you enjoyed when they came out, but now rarely get a chance to see them unedited and without commercial interruptions. One, or rather, two such movies now available on Blu-ray are Shanghai Noon and Shanghai Knights, brought to you together in this two-movie collection. It’s been at least ten years since either of these films were released, so it was a genuine pleasure to review them and relive the zany buddy comedies starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Hit the jump for my review.
This two-for is a steal for fans of Chan and Wilson who want to relive the fun on Blu-ray. In addition to both feature films, there are a total of 19 deleted scenes, nine featurettes and three audio commentary tracks. The real deal is in getting to see Chan do his unprecedented stunt work in 2000 and 2003. It’s also fun to take a look back and spot actors who are not only still around today, but who are still on the upswing in their careers. And with any Jackie Chan film, you’re sure to get a credits sequence that’s chock full o’ bloopers and these films don’t disappoint.
Although this is a fair amount of content, both movies and their bonus features are all crammed onto one Blu-ray disc. Normally I’d give them the pass on this if the quality was up to snuff, but even though the description says the films have been digitally restored and enhanced, there’s a fair amount of noticeable grainy quality of the picture in long stretches. Aside from the features themselves, the bonus quality is quite good. The extras for Shanghai Noon are merely the same as those on the DVD, just ported over. Unfortunately, there’s one hassle with the user interface in that it doesn’t allow you to “Play All” deleted scenes or features at once, which leads to a lag in response and, on one occasion, a freeze up. Enough of the bad stuff; on to the goods!
In the first team up between Chan and Wilson, Chan stars as Chon Wang, a Chinese Imperial Guard who ends up in a contentious partnership with the Old West outlaw, Roy O’Bannon (Wilson) as they attempt to rescue Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu). After the success of the first Rush Hour movie, in which Chan teamed up well with Chris Tucker, Chan wanted to do a Western film as long as it incorporated his signature fighting style. Luckily there is plenty of that on display. Chan’s martial arts prowess and discipline is perfectly contrasted by Wilson’s comedic timing and laid-back attitude, making this one enjoyable popcorn movie. Make sure to keep an eye out for Walton Goggins (Justified) and Sean Connery’s son, Jason Connery.
Wilson, Chan and director Tom Dey contribute to the film’s audio commentary. Here are a few highlights:
- Dey talks about the Chinese characters that form the opening title sequence. Some are taken from the fairy tale that Princess Pei Pei reads, “The Frog Prince.” Others read, “East,” “West” or “China.”
- Chan talks at length about choreographing each fight scene and his decisions on how to use certain props.
- There’s a great behind-the-scenes story about the laugh-riot “drinking in the bathtub” scene.
- Dey talks about the stressful setup of the gallows sequence in which many stunt effects had to go off without a hitch at the same time.
Classic DVD Bonus Features:
- Deleted Scenes (8) – Mostly extended sequences with a few bits of character backstory thrown in.
- Making an Eastern Western (~2 minutes) – Dey and Chan telling the story of getting the film made.
- Partners (~5 minutes) – Dey on Chan and Wilson’s partnership on screen and off.
- Jackie’s Comedy (~5 minutes) – Dey, Chan, and Wilson plus editor Richard Chew on Chan’s signature fighting style and his influence by Buster Keaton.
- Western Stunts, Eastern Style (~5 minutes) – Dey on “Hong Kong mode,” which was used to shoot a rapid number of very short takes, versus “Hollywood mode,” which was his normal method of shooting. Chan, Chew and production designer Peter Hampton all contribute to the discussion on how Chan choreographs, edits, acts and improvises his fights.
- Hanging with Roy and the Kid (~2 minutes) – Dey shows the behind-the-scenes process of the Gallows stunt in which Wilson and Chan’s characters are about to hung.
- Action Overload (~4 minutes) – Montage of action scenes
- Choo Choo Boogie (~4 minutes) – Behind-the-scenes featurette on the train explosion sequence and the extremely-detailed miniatures used.
“Yeah, Yeah, Yeah” music video by Uncle Kracker – Who doesn’t want that bit of nostalgia? …
Roy O’Bannon and the Shanghai Kid team up again, but this time their adventure takes them to London in order to track down Chon’s father’s murderer and foil a plot to overthrow the monarchy. While this film pokes a lot more fun at the time period by ladling in both fictitious and historical characters alike, it’s a fun follow-up if you don’t take your action-comedies too seriously. This particular sequel features a much younger Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass), Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) and Donnie Yen (Ip Man).
Audio Commentary Tracks:
Director David Dobkin
- The process of making a sequel.
- The puzzlebox in the movie was Chan’s idea.
- Similar to Shanghai Noon, the movie was shot partially in Calgary, but mostly in Prague.
- Composer Randy Edelman returned for the sequel and tied some musical cues together between the two films.
- Films are surprisingly pro action heroine as there are strong female characters in each.
Writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
- The process of working in Jack the Ripper, Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chaplin and the like.
- Using the Queen’s jubilee as a factual cover for a terrorist attack on Parliament.
- Commentary on the deleted scene that shows the Dickensian plight of the orphans in London.
- Lord Rathbone (Gillen), 10th in line to the throne, is a completely fictional character.
- One of the end scenes, ie the knighting ceremony, is Dobkin’s homage to Star Wars.
- The writers pitched a third movie, Shanghai Dawn, which would have featured the aging cowboys filming Western movies in Hollywood; there are no current plans to develop it.
- Deleted Scenes (11) – Mostly extended fighting and comedic sequences. These are worth it just to watch Chan fight again.
- Fight Manual (~10 minutes) – Chan and Dobkin talk action-comedies, editing, timing and preparation of fight scenes, and keeping the story in mind even in the midst of a fight.
- Action Overload (~2 minutes) – Black-and-white stunt montage with player piano music.