Jackie Chan Does Gene Kelly
To put it simply it is Jackie Chan who makes "Shanghai Knights" the fun and memorable movie it is, without his talent not only for martial arts but also comedy it would have been boring. That is the sentence I started my review of "Shanghai Noon" with just changing the word "Noon" for "Knights" to make it applicable for this sequel. Now in fairness "Shanghai Knights" is entertaining but it has nothing to do with the storyline, little to do with the supporting characters or Owen Wilson but mainly down to Jackie Chan who's combination of old fashioned slapstick with martial arts is the only real reason to watch and Chan doesn't disappoint with some wonderful fight scenes full of fun.
Having become sheriff of Carson City, Nevada Chon Wang (Jackie Chan - Rush Hour 2) receives word from his sister that not only has his father been murdered but the seal which their family has guarded for 12 generations has been stolen. Having caught up with Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson - Behind Enemy Lines) in New York they head to England where Wang's sister Lin (Fann Wong) has followed the killer who just happens to be Lord Rathbone (Aidan Gillen), 10th in line to the throne. They soon discover that Rathbone has cut a deal with the Chinese Emperor's banished brother who will murder all those inline to the throne in front of Rathbone in return for the seal. Now Wang, Roy, Lin along with a street urchin called Charlie Chaplin (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and a sacked Scotland Yard detective called Artie Doyle (Tom Fisher) must stop the Royal family from being murdered and get the seal back.
So here we go again with a movie which recycles the old dastardly plot of killing the royal family in order to become then next monarch, it is a storyline which I have experienced on a few occasions and there is nothing new added in "Shanghai Knights" to make it any more original. In fact all the storylines in "Shanghai Knights" which include the evil Wu Chow, Roy fancying Lin and a few others are all pretty standard ideas which combine to deliver an entertaining but weak storyline. Now in fairness the storyline was never going to be a reason to watch "Shanghai Knights" but to say there are more plot holes than story would not be telling a lie.
But in truth the only reason you would watch "Shanghai Knights" is because it is a Jackie Chan movie which is really a vehicle for his brand of comedy martial arts and as such it doesn't disappoint. In fact the comedy action in "Shanghai Knights" is some of the best I have seen because there is an increased creativity to it such as the amusing fight scenes played out to "Singin' in the Rain" as Wang fights with umbrellas. There are a lot more and everyone is sharply executed so on one hand the quickness of the action is mind boggling yet then amusing when some Buster Keaton style slapstick is thrown in.
On that note it is worth mentioning that much of the non action humour comes from character names such as Wang and Roy ending up working with Artie Doyle and in a few scenes we get references to Sherlock Holmes as well as his classic pipe smoking look. There is also a street urchin called Charlie Chaplin who for those who don't realise is played by a young Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Even the bad guy who is brilliantly played by Aidan Gillen is called Rathbone which must be a nod to Basil Rathbone who throughout the 1940's played Sherlock Holmes.
There is also of course the small matter of Jackie Chan being reunited with Owen Wilson and to be honest they work well together with Wilson never encroaching on Chan's territory by trying to do the action. But there is something about the character of Roy O'Bannon which is quite annoying; probably his whiney nature rather than the way Wilson plays him.
What this all boils down to is that "Shanghai Knights" is not a bad sequel but really the only reason to watch is for Jackie Chan and his brand of comedy martial arts fuelled action.