Jackie Chan may have been my first exposure to kung-fu films. The latter half of his career was still action-packed but wrapped in family-friendly packaging. Shanghai Noon is from that portion of his career. Chan is joined by Lucy Liu, Owen Wilson, and Roger Yuan. The film combines a western with a Kung-Fu film set during the construction of the transcontinental railroad. Much of the construction from the west coast eastward was done by Chinese immigrants, so there is a tint of historic accuracy. The term slavery is tossed around about these workers, yet another nod to the historically accurate way these laborers may have been brought to or kept in the United States
Jackie Chan delivers a solid action performance. There are quite a few jump cuts during the fight sequences, but they are still entertaining, and we know Chan did his own stunts like he always does. The plot moves along quickly enough that you never get bored in the story. Owen Wilson plays his typical character that thinks his station in life is above most other people with constant jokes to remind everyone else of that fact. Looking back twenty years in his career, you do not see a lot of growth.
I enjoyed this trip down memory lane. Shanghai Noon is not as problematic as I thought it would be when viewed through a 2021 lens. The Chinese characters are played by ethnically Chinese people, the native Americans are played by native Americans. Few cringe-worthy moments were making this film survive mostly unscathed. If you want a low-stakes family-friendly action film with a tinge of western I do not know of another one. This should be a fun way to spend 1:50.
This was also Brad Allen’s first film as an assistant stunt coordinator. He was a longtime friend of Jackie Chan. He also worked on the Rush Hour films, The Kingsman series, Solo: A Star Wars Story, Shang Chi, and many other films coordinating stunts. He passed away in August 2021 at age 48.