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Shanghai Noon is a action-martial arts-adventure-comedy-western film starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Directed by Tom Dey, it was written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. The movie, set in Nevadamarker and other parts of the west in the 19th century, is a juxtaposition of a western with a Jackie Chan kung fu action movie with extended martial arts sequences. It also has elements of comedy and the "Buddy Cop" film genre, as it involves two men of different personalities and ethnicities (a Chinese imperial guard and a Western outlaw) who team up to stop a crime.

A sequel, Shanghai Knights, was released in 2003.

Plot

Chon Wang (Jackie Chan) is an imperial guard of Chinamarker. After Princess Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu), who Wang has affection for, is abducted by Calvin Andrews (Jason Connery) and taken to the United Statesmarker, the Emperor of China sends three of his bravest guards to retrieve her. Wang is not among one of the three, but after he tells them that it was his fault the princess was kidnapped, he is sent merely in the hopes that the "foreign devils" would get rid of Wang for China. In Nevadamarker, Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) is an outlaw who, with his gang, hijacks the train Wang is on. When Wallace (Walton Goggins), a member of Roy's gang, kills Wang's uncle, Wang chases the outlaws down. However, the gang is well-armed and Wang's only choice is to unhinge the cars and get away on the engine. In the process, Wallace takes over the gang from Roy, and they leave him buried up to his chin in the desert sand.

Meanwhile, Pei-Pei, who was tricked into believing she was freely escaping her arranged marriage in China, finds out she has been kidnapped by an agent of Lo Fong (Roger Yuan), who ran away from the Forbidden City and was viewed as a traitor by the Chinese. Andrews is then killed by Fong when he demands a higher pay.

When Wang finds Roy buried in the sand, he demands to know the direction to Carson Citymarker. Roy tells him that the city is on the other side of a mountain. He puts two chop sticks in Roy's mouth and tells him to dig himself out. When Wang comes out the other side of the mountain, he gets involved with a Native tribe by saving a boy chased by the Crow tribe and ends up reluctantly marrying the tribe chief's daughter, Falling Leaves (Brandon Merrill), after supposedly having sex with her the night before (due to his Imperial Guard uniform the Native Americans humorously call him Man-Who-Fights-In-Dress). When he and his new wife get to the next town, she promises him that she will look out for him. Inside a tavern in the town, Wang finds Roy and, in anger, starts a fight with him that turns into a barroom brawl. The two of them get sent to prison, and after they escape (thanks to Falling Leaves), they decide that they will become friends. Roy himself was a little motivated by hearing that there was plenty of the Chinese emperor's gold being exchanged as a ransom for the princess. Roy trains Wang in the ways of the cowboy and also tells him, in response to Wang's lack of openness, that he is in the West, not the East.

When they get to Carson City, Roy discovers that both he and Wang, now identified as the "Shanghai Kid" are wanted by Lo Fong's ally Marshal Nathan Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley), and the two of them narrowly escape. They go to a hideout, which is more of a burlesque house and after playing a Chinese drinking game in the bathtub, Roy says to a girl massaging him that Wang could never be his friend because Wang is from China. Wang overhears this, and after he knocks out Van Cleef once, the Marshal eventually catches up to him and Roy and arrests them. They find out that Lo Fong is behind the kidnapping of the princess, and he cuts off Wang's hair (known as a queue or bianzi) so that he loses his honor and can never go back to China. As they are about to be hanged, Wang manages to break himself free from his ropes and after Falling Leaves shoots Roy loose, and their horses, who were planned to bring their coffins in a carriage, destroy the hanging platform and carry them far away from the execution site. Wang tells him Roy that he overheard what he said to the girl about their association, and rides off alone to find the Princess. However, Roy follows Chon and the two reunite when Roy saves Wang from Fong.

The next day, the two partners go to the ransom point, the Carson City Mission church. The three imperial guards come with the gold (Wang had become separated from them during the train robbery), and Lo Fong has the princess' hands tied behind her and her bare feet tied tightly. However, a simple exchange becomes complicated when Wang, to the surprise of the guards, shows up and Roy points a gun towards Fong. Wang tells his fellow guards that he will not allow them to bring the princess back to China and that she does not wish to return, although they have been ordered by the emperor to. However, when a guard starts to read the imperial decree, Wang bows in submission to Roy's disdain, but eventually rebuffs the decree by telling the guards that they are in the West, not the East, meaning that the princess shall stay in America. With everything going seemingly fine, things go sour when Van Cleef comes out with two guns and remarks that they have a Mexican standoff without Mexicans. Pei-Pei takes the decree scroll and burns it. As the Chinese and Lo Fong fight amongst themselves, Van Cleef and Roy wage in a gunfight. After Van Cleef comes close to killing Roy and Roy's bullets go in random places nowhere near the marshal, Van Cleef says he will drop all but one of his bullets, to be fair to Roy, but instead loads two guns and deceives Roy. However, as Van Cleef simultaneous fires both guns, Roy takes his shot and pierces Van Cleef in the heart, and discovers that none of Van Cleef's bullets hit him directly, and he proclaims that he is invincible. Meanwhile Wang fights the Imperial Guards whilst Lo Fong chases Pei-Pei through the rafters of the church. After Wang knocks all three Guards unconscious he fights Lo Fong amongst the scaffolding as well as the bell tower. Wang ultimately kills Lo Fong by wrapping a knot hanging from the bell around Lo Fong's neck and then dismantling the bell causing it to go plummeting down and thus hang Lo Fong. When they awaken the Imperial Guards decide that they will let the princess stay.

Wallace and his gang also come up to the church, and demand that Roy and Wang (or The Shanghai Kid as he was called) come out and fight. But when the two of them get outside the church to face Wallace, Natives from all around surround the gang and Wallace asks Roy if he'd like to rejoin the gang, to which Roy responds "I'm just gonna wing it. And you are going to jail."

At Chinese cultural celebration Roy thanks Falling Leaves for saving him and Chon from danger and that he cannot believe he is in love with her because of all their cultural differences, to which Falling Leaves reacts by merely kissing Roy and telling him to shut up because he talks too much. Roy then kisses her back and they engage in a passionate lip lock. At the same time, Pei-Pei holds a smiling Wang's hand. At the end of the movie, Roy and Wang are shown as sheriffs and ride off to catch the new band of train robbers.

Cast



Trivia

  • Lucy Liu won the Blockbuster Entertainment Award for her role in Shanghai Noon.
  • Actress Brandon Merrill, who plays Jackie Chan's horse-riding Native American wife, is a real-life rodeo champion.
  • Partially filmed in the Canadian Badlands, near Drumhellermarker, Albertamarker, Canadamarker.


Cultural references

The title (a pun on the Gary Cooper classic High Noon) and several names used in the film pay homage to earlier westerns. Chan's character, "Chon Wang" is meant to sound like John Wayne, and the antagonist, Nathan Van Cleef, is an homage to Lee Van Cleef, who played "the Bad" in The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, among other roles in major westerns. In addition, Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson's character) reveals at the end that his real name is Wyatt Earp, which Chon laughingly dismisses as "a terrible name for a cowboy".
  • The Chinese characters shown in the background during the opening credits are excerpts from a translation of "The Frog Prince."
  • Chon Wang is the Chinese translation/pronunciation of John Wayne. However, in the case of Jackie Chan's character, Chon represents his last name while Wang is his first name. This represents the order Chinese names are presented.
  • The song playing during the first bar-fight sequence is "La Grange" by ZZ Top, the same song that plays during the The Dirty Dozen (1967)-style intro of the characters in Armageddon (1998), an earlier film which starred Owen Wilson.
  • The song played when Roy is teaching Chon to be a cowboy is Kid Rock's "Cowboy".
  • The name of Marshall Nathan Van Cleef is a homage to Lee Van Cleef, who starred in many spaghetti westerns.
  • The line "I don't know karate, but I know crazy" is a line from a James Brown song.
  • During the scene where Roy and Chon are drunk in the hotel, director Tom Dey hoped to include a drunken kung fu scene as an homage to The Legend of Drunken Master (1994). There was no time to choreograph such a scene, so Dey showed Chon blowing bubbles from his mouth, as Wong Fei-hung does in the Drunken Master movie.
  • The scene at the end, outside the church and heavily surrounded, is an homage to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).


Box office

Produced at a budget of $55,000,000, the film grossed $99,274,467.

Reception

It was well received by critics, receiving a composite 78% "certified fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Joe Leydon of Variety gave Shanghai Noon a favorable review, characterizing it as "Fast, furious and, quite often, very, very funny."

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