Shanghai Knights (2003)
Main Menu Audio & Animation
Scene Selection Audio
Audio Commentary-David Dobkin (Director)
Audio Commentary-Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (Screenwriters)
|Year Of Production||2003|
|RSDL / Flipper||RSDL (66:05)||Cast & Crew|
|Start Up||Language Select Then Menu|
|Region Coding||2,4||Directed By||David Dobkin|
Walt Disney Studios Home Ent.
|Pan & Scan/Full Frame||None||
English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Descriptive Audio Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1 (384Kb/s)
Hungarian Dolby Digital 2.0 (192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 1.0 (96Kb/s)
|Widescreen Aspect Ratio||2.35:1|
|Video Format||576i (PAL)|
|Original Aspect Ratio||2.35:1||Miscellaneous|
English for the Hearing Impaired
Spanish Text Commentary
|Smoking||Yes, Roy enjoys his cigars.|
|Annoying Product Placement||No|
|Action In or After Credits||No|
So how do you go about creating sequel magic? Shanghai Knights is a fair example, and while many would debate whether it is as good as its predecessor, few would suggest the film is a dud. The first step to ensure sequel success is to retain the main stars from the first outing, achieved here with both Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson returning. Lucy Liu is gone, but there is a ready replacement in Asian songstress Fann Wong, so the film does not really miss her. The next step is to attempt to achieve the same style in the script. For that, the writers of Shanghai Noon return. Alfred Gough and Miles Millar, whose previous credits include Lethal Weapon 4, and who are also co-creators and executive producers for TVs Smallville, bring the same comedy feel to this film as to the first. Finally, for the look and tone of the film, it is the director. This is the only place where Shanghai Knights misses out, as director of Shanghai Noon, Tom Dey, did not return for this instalment. That, however, is not necessarily a bad thing, as this film is a different beast to the first in a number of ways, the most obvious being the setting - Victorian London.
The story starts with the death of Chon Wang (Jackie Chan)'s estranged father at the hands of a rather nasty looking Englishman. When Chon's sister sends him a letter in Carson City, where he is happily living out life as the Sheriff, Chon immediately sets off for the big city to meet back up with his old buddy Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson). After some typically Roy O'Bannon style shenanigans, the two set off for London together to save Chon's sister, and avenge his father's death. Once in London, they encounter a few problems - not the least of which is a plot to overthrow both the Chinese Emperor, and the English Queen. By doing what they do best they might just be able to save the world at the same time as meting out due vengeance.
It is difficult to say if this film is better or worse than the original. The main reason for that is because it is quite different, both obviously in terms of setting, and more subtly in terms of tone. The major difference between the films is that the first one was more specifically comedy driven, keeping the action set pieces short and to the point. This film is content, especially early on, to let the action play out for quite some time, and for no other reason than for action. Director David Dobkin says that this is in an attempt to make this the closest an American Jackie Chan film has come to any of his Asian work. That may or may not be true, but the result is some of the most inspired action set-pieces committed to film in quite some time. The three highlights from the film are the keystone cops-esque revolving door fight - replete with cartoon-like sound effects - the Singin' In The Rain box-dance sequence, and the pillow-fight. The last of those is by far the high point of the movie - it is completely out of the blue, and is absolutely perfect comedy film-making.
As for the rest of the film - the mostly non-action parts that is - it is a very good combination of comedy with revenge drama. Irish actor Aidan Gillen is appropriately slimy as the evil Rathbone, although he is slightly less successful at affecting an English accent (one assumes the American producers never noticed). Donnie Yen continues to nibble at the edges of a major Hollywood breakthrough, and Hong Kong film fans will relish the showdown between his bitter and twisted Wu Chow and Jackie Chan's Chon Wang. Tom Fisher has plenty of fun with his character of Artie Doyle (there's a joke there, by the way), and Fann Wong is both enthusiastic and likeable in her first American film, using her command of English (she is a Singaporean native) to carry more dialogue that others in similar roles (Jackie Chan in his earlier American films, and Zhang Ziyi in Rush Hour 2). All these are only window dressing however - this film is really about Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson.
Once again Chan, the man who does all his own stunts, and Wilson, the man who does none of his own stunts, have a chemistry that completely carries the movie. The two could not be more different, but it is in that difference that the partnership works. Where Jackie Chan can kick butts from one side of the screen to the other and back again, Owen Wilson can do anything else that is needed - he is by turns a hero, a coward, brilliant, and an imbecile - but when the two come together to display emotion, the film is at its strongest. Jackie Chan can convey a lot with just a look (which is good, as his English is not yet good enough to convey all that much with his voice), while Owen Wilson is a superb actor in all facets. The bar scene in the Puss-In-Boots Inn is dramatically the highlight of any recent buddy picture and defines why this film is at the top of its game - because we care about the characters. Beyond all the cheesy jokes, slapstick humour, and fight scenes - obviously the main reason to watch movies of this type - the audience really wants Roy and Chon to succeed, and that makes the rest of the film all the more interesting.
This is buddy filmmaking at its best, and while it will never be thought-provoking drama, it was never intended to be. Brilliant entertainment that reaffirms why it is just good fun to go to the movies. I guess that makes Shanghai Knights better than its predecessor then.
Presented in the original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 this transfer is 16x9 enhanced.
The first problem with the transfer is that it is not particularly sharp. The image contains enough detail to be pleasant, but only enough - it never goes beyond the call of duty, as so many other recent transfers do. The image has a slightly soft look to it, but at the same time, a very high contrast, which makes for a slightly disturbing image. Not helping the issue any is the presence of a consistently high level of background grain. While it is usually not too much of a problem, it does become very noticeable from time to time, with the worst instances occurring with the fog from 68:10 and again from 71:43. In addition to the grain, the transfer is plagued by what seems to be an excessive use of edge enhancement. Mild edge enhancement can be easy enough to put up with, but it is used almost constantly in this transfer and to extreme levels. While some of it is most likely due to back-lighting, the constant halos around the characters are extremely distracting. On the upside, shadow detail is very good, displaying excellent depth, with nicely penetrable blacks. There is no low level noise.
Colours are good, and the wildly varying colour palette of this movie is rendered without any issues. The image at times takes on a slightly "hyper-realistic" look (entirely intentional according to the director's commentary), which emphasises the colours even further - a challenge the transfer is more than up to.
There are virtually no compression artefacts in the transfer, even when the grain becomes quite noticeable, and there are no film artefacts. The same cannot be said for film-to-video artefacts, as aliasing is a major problem. Virtually all straight edges suffer from it to at least a minor extent, while there are many examples of very distracting aliasing, such as the roof at 27:41. The worst aliasing culprit, however, is the "generals" jacket worn by Roy for almost a third of the movie - every time he moves, the jacket breaks out into shimmering lines. The red bandanna worn by Chon in the earlier parts of the movie is almost as problematic, although fortunately only in close up.
The subtitles are rendered in what has to be the most attractive font yet presented on a DVD. They are not particularly accurate to the spoken word however, which causes a number of jokes (particularly those of Roy) to be missed.
This is an RSDL formatted disc with the layer change taking place at 66:04 during Chapter 10. It is relatively well placed, being on a static image with little sound, and is not particularly easy to spot.
There are six audio tracks present on this disc. The first three are the original English dialogue and dubs in Spanish and Hungarian. The English and Spanish tracks are both in Dolby Digital 5.1 (at 448 and 384Kbps respectively), while the Hungarian is in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround at 192Kbps. Next are the two English audio commentary tracks, both presented in Dolby Digital 1.0 (at 96Kbps). Finally, there is an English descriptive audio track, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 surround (at 192Kbps).
Dialogue is mostly clear and easy to understand, and when it isn't, the fault does not lie with the transfer. While Jackie Chan's English is getting better, there are still times when his accent may cause some people problems. Fann Wong fares little better in these stakes, with a few phrases sounding like others with entirely different meanings ("Forget about it" sounds more like an expletive, while "Wu Chow" sounds more like "Watch Out"). Fortunately, subtitles are available for those who find the accents too much to comprehend. Audio sync was spot-on throughout the movie and never caused a problem.
The music is a combination of score by Randy Edelman, and a collection of contemporary songs. For the style of movie it works well, although the score component does not quite match up to the grand and sweeping score from the first instalment. To be fair, however, the setting is neither grand nor sweeping, so the score has simply changed to suit the different locale.
The surround channels are not extensively used. They get some play from score and music, and spring into action from time to time when there are specific ambient noises to carry, but are rarely used for true directional sound effects. This is a pity, as there are certainly a number of opportunities for this that are simply not taken.
Like the surround channels, the subwoofer is left a little high and dry, not delivering the total effectiveness that the movie has potential for. There are a number of times where it is used very well, but they are virtually matched by the times when it could have been used better. At least when it is used it is well used, and provides tightly controlled backing.
|Surround Channel Use|
NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.
The video quality is quite disappointing. Suffering from excessive aliasing and edge enhancement, some may find the transfer quite distracting to watch.
The audio is also a little disappointing, although more for the opportunities missed than any problems. It is simply serviceable, where it could have been spectacular.
The extras may not look extensive, but the weight of two commentaries and almost half an hour of deleted scenes makes them considerably more appealing.
|DVD||Pioneer DV-555K, using Component output|
|Display||Loewe Xelos 5381ZW. Calibrated with Video Essentials. This display device is 16x9 capable.|
|Audio Decoder||Built in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.|
|Amplification||Onkyo TX-DS787, THX Select|
|Speakers||Rochester Audio Animato Series (2xSAF-02, SAC-02, 3xSAB-01) + 12" Sub (150WRMS)|