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The East

The East emerges as an exciting piece of filmmaking from the independent scene’s hott —Matt Anderson (review...)

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Shanghai Knights does not ask you to suspend your disbelief in order to enjoy the movie; it orders you to do so with the punishment of death if you fail to comply. You won’t come across a movie that has more historical inaccuracies, clichés about British culture, or action scenes that some animators would dare not dream of.

But it does deliver on what Jackie Chan fans have come to expect, and that is spectacular fight scenes. Even the best of Chan’s films have been thin on story, so you can credit writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar for giving us a movie that makes fun of these clichés between Chan’s Kung Fu numbers. This makes the movie more enjoyable than its predecessor, Shanghai Noon. If only they could have done their homework a little better....

Rue Britannia

Jackie Chan provides the film's saving grace
Jackie Chan provides the film’s saving grace

 Yak tracks do not add value to DVD, but movie does
Yak tracks do not add value to DVD, but movie does
 
Chan reprises his role of Chon Wang (pronounced “John Wayne” throughout the movie), who is now a very efficient sheriff of Carson City, Nevada, while his buddy Roy O’Bannon has gone to New York to seek his fortune as the main character of a series of pulp novels.

Chon gets a letter informing him of his father’s death at the hands of the sinister Lord Rathbone (Gillen, sporting a Sid Vicious haircut) and the theft of an artifact that grants the Emperor of China his power. Chon’s sister Lin (Wong) has followed Rathbone to England to avenge their father’s death and recover the artifact, and Chon decides to join her across the sea.

On his way he stops in New York to pick up O’Bannon, who is up to his old tricks as a con artist. He has squandered most of his money on foolish investments such as zeppelins and works as a waiter in a posh hotel. Chon convinces Roy to accompany him to England because Roy is on the run from the cops for cozying up to the mayor’s daughters. Roy says he’ll do it for friendship, but what he really wants to do is meet Lin.

The movie hits its stride once they get to jolly old England, and so do the clichés; people have bad teeth, it always rains, and the food is very unusual and unappealing. Roy’s boorish behavior amplifies this: he berates a coachman for “driving on the wrong side of the road” and tries to intimidate a Buckingham Palace guard, with a rather painful result.

Meanwhile, they try to recover the artifact, an object that is really nothing more than a plot device. The only real story is the budding romance between Roy and Lin despite Chon’s disapproval. Despite their friendship, Chon thinks Roy is still a cad.

A Kick in the Arse

Even though the movie offers a lot to wince about, the video transfer looks beautiful. The art direction is the movie’s strongest asset, and much of the detail can be seen even on the smallest of televisions. Since much of Chan’s fighting uses many props, these can easily be seen and enjoyed, especially during a scene where he fights Rathbone’s goons while trying to protect many priceless vases. The 5.1 surround sound carries extremely well, which is ironic since you could turn down the volume completely and still understand what is going on.

The deleted scenes section gives you 11 to chose from, and most of them are extended fight scenes that were trimmed to keep the movie’s running time reasonable. Watching scenes makes you realize that necessity, since Chan’s fighting can be overwhelming at times. One scene that was cut has Chan fighting in a full suit of armor, which turns out to be more awkward than funny.

The other two extras, “Fight Manual” and “Action Overload” could not have been included in the theatrical release, and you would not have missed them anyway. “Fight Manual” is a nine minute short with Chan and Dobkin discussing the tribulations of mixing comedy and action, while “Action Overload” is a greatest hits collection of the movie’s fight scenes done up as a silent movie complete with intertitles. These extras are nothing more than filler.

“I Love This Shot So Much”

You can choose between two yak tracks if you want to hear running audio commentary. Dobkin’s is slightly more informative than Gough’s and Millar’s mainly because you can understand what Dobkin is saying while Gough and Millar are too busy laughing at each other’s jokes. All three admit to taking extreme liberties with many of the story’s historical elements, such as Rathbone driving an automobile 20 years before it he should have. Dobkin even admits how silly this movie really is.

They also fall into the typical commentary trap of describing how much they loved certain scenes and how every single person who worked on the movie did such a great job, but they do not dwell on this and you get a few worthy tidbits such as Gough and Millar discussing how certain scenes were originally written and Dobkin talking about ideas that never got filmed.

But they made this movie to entertain, and entertain is what Shanghai Knights ultimately does. Ardent Jackie Chan fans should pick this one up for the elaborate fighting alone. Those who are not long-time followers could also get a kick out of the disc as well.