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Is Jackie Chan Heading for a Lifetime Achievement Oscar?
Well, a Lifetime Achievement Oscar may be the only category that's open to the aging but impish martial arts virtuoso, Jackie Chan, whose latest series-sequel, "Shanghai Knights" is...excellent, fun, entertaining.
My kid got into Jackie Chan films a while back and we have a half-shelf of $5.99 videotapes of the young Chan. Poorly shot with howlingly funny dubbing they nonetheless catch a Kung-Fu master at the height of his considerable prowess.
Hollywood and Jackie's sincere but imperfect effort at learning English led to a series of films that are high budget such as "Rush Hour" with its sequel and "Shanghai Noon," now followed by this film. Each has a sidekick for the irrepresible Chan but "Shanghai Knights " is the first where the faithful companion is a strong character in his own right.
"Shanghai Knights" begins with the Peking (not Beijing, it's the end of the nineteenth century) murder of Chan's dad and the theft of the Imperial Seal (a device to mark documents, not a pet). Chan is a Nevada sheriff who upon learning of the homicide and theft sets off to New York City to find his pal, played formidably and with evident relish by Owen Wilson.
The duo head for London where an unending series of misadventures brings the heroes, along with Chan's gorgeous and martial arts-skilled sister (Fann Wong) into the path of such diverse characters as little Charlie Chaplin, Her Majesty Queen Victoria, Jack the Ripper and others. Of course all ends well and if the martial arts terpsichore is less breathtakingly complex than its predecessors - well, let's cut Jackie some slack.
The film is PG-13 but Wilson provides a measured but running dose of raunch aided by a bevy of scantily clad beauties. There's no doubt HE had a terrific time making the movie.
Director David Dobkin keeps the pace moving and pays humorous tribute to films and stars from the Gilded Age of the cinema. I won't spoil the amusing surprises but listen to the music as the intrepid trio (sister now a full-fledged partner) waft to and fro in a caricature of nineteenth century London. Sad to say most moviegoers won't recognize the well-executed takeoffs of some great moments in film.
As always, a special Chan treat are the outtakes before the end credits, scenes that prove making these films may not be good for the health of the no-longer-young star or his cast but they all have a blast (literally).
And here's good news for the many who will enjoy this movie. I don't know if there will be a "Rush Hour III" but last week I couldn't get within 150 feet of the venerable Yonah Schimmel's on the Lower East Side's Houston Street. Chan and crew were filming a sequel to this new release - a flunky stopping pedestrian traffic told me the title would be "Shanghai Knish!" I can't wait.
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