Shanghai Noon

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Details At A Glance

Category Comedy Audio Commentary - Jackie Chan (Actor), Owen Wilson (Actor), Tom Dey (Director)
Deleted Scenes (8)
Featurette - Making An Eastern Western
Featurette - Partners
Featurette - Jackie's Comedy
Featurette - Western Stunts, Eastern Style
Featurette - Hanging With Roy And The Kid
Featurette - Action Overload
Featurette - Choo Choo Boogie
Music Video - Uncle Kracker: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah
Rating pg.gif (1010 bytes)
Year Released 2000
Running Time 105:47 Minutes
RSDL/Flipper RSDL (74:48)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Language Selection then Menu
Region 2,4 Director Tom Dey
Touchstone.gif (3655 bytes)
Warner Home Video
Starring Jackie Chan
Owen Wilson
Lucy Liu
Brandon Merrill
Roger Yuan
Xander Berkeley
Case Transparent Amaray
RPI $36.95 Music Randy Edelman
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English (Dolby Digital 5.1 384Kb/s)
French (Dolby Digital 5.1 384Kb/s)
Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1 384Kb/s)
Czech (Dolby Digital 2.0 , 192Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary (Dolby Digital 2.0, 192Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9Yes.jpg (4536 bytes)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
Macrovision Yes Smoking Yes, quite hilariously
Subtitles English
English for the Hearing Impaired
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits Yes, the usual Jackie Chan collection of bloopers just before the credits

Plot Synopsis

    Having missed out on the chance to see Shanghai Noon during its theatrical run, I thought I might take a look at it when it came to DVD, figuring that any film with Jackie Chan in it is at least going to be entertaining. The reason for this is quite simple: as fellow action star Richard Norton puts it, Jackie Chan is like a speeding bullet in reverse, fighting to get away from his opponents rather than simply wading into everything and everyone. The lack of egotism or inflated ideas about his acting ability also put Chan well above other action stars of the 1990s, such as Jean-Claude Van Damme or Steven Seagal.

    The film, such as it is, begins in China's Forbidden City during the year 1881, where the numerous Imperial Guards are gathered for the arrival of Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu). One such Imperial Guard is Chon Wang (Jackie Chan), who is generally considered to be all but useless by his fellow guards and the Emperor. Pei Pei is destined by royal tradition to marry the Emperor's cousin, who, as Pei Pei puts it, is a disgusting toad. After reading The Frog Prince with an English teacher from America named Andrews (Jason Connery), Pei Pei decides to run away to America in order to escape the prospect of marrying a fat pig. Unfortunately, this is all part of an elaborate setup by Lo Fong (Roger Yuan), a rebellious Imperial Guard who left the Forbidden City and runs a sweatshop for a railroad company. His plan is to hold the Princess for a hefty ransom, and woe betide the man who gets in his way, or tries to renegotiate with him.

    Meanwhile, a trio of Imperial Guards and a Royal Interpreter (Henry O) are selected to visit America and retrieve the princess. Chon Wang, who happens to be the interpreter's nephew, insists that he go along with them, and so they begin their stateside adventure on a train in Nevada. Unfortunately, the train is robbed by Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson) and his gang, one of whom kills Chon's uncle in the course of the robbery. After the robbery, Roy's gang leaves him buried up to his neck in the Nevada desert, where Chon rediscovers him and leaves him with a pair of chopsticks to dig himself out. After meeting with a tribe of Native Americans and attaining a wife who goes by the name of Falling Leaves (Brandon Merrill), Chon eventually allies with Roy in the search for the missing princess. Pursuing them are the former members of Roy's gang, a U.S.Marshal by the name of Nathan Van Cleef (Xander Berkeley), and Lo Fong's henchmen.

    Okay, so it's not the greatest story ever put to paper; as a matter of fact, the story is pretty dire, which is to be expected when the writers (Miles Millar and Alfred Gough) are the same ones who penned Lethal Weapon 4. What saves this film is the acting from Jackie Chan, Owen Wilson, Brandon Merrill, and Lucy Liu, who all put in some memorable and hilarious performances. Owen Wilson gets the best line in the whole film ("No, you said 'wet shirt not break,' not 'piss shirt bend bar!'"), Lucy Liu makes a great heroine, and Jackie Chan is, well, Jackie Chan. 3310 users of The Internet Movie Database have given this film an average rating of 7.2, which is a good reflection of how enjoyable the film is if you don't watch it with too much in the way of expectations.

Transfer Quality


    After a string of generally mediocre transfers, Touchstone have finally come up with a DVD that I wouldn't be reluctant to use for demonstration purposes.

    The transfer is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1, a slight variance from the theatrical ratio of 2.40:1, and it is 16x9 Enhanced. The transfer is very sharp, but not quite as sharp as I was expecting from such a contemporary transfer, from start to finish. The shadow detail is very good, with plenty of visible details on offer in the black parts of the picture, and there is no low-level noise.

    The colour saturation is bright and vivid, with the Nevada landscape (which was actually filmed in Canada) being filled with crystal-clear shades of red, green, and blue at all times. The scenes shot in Beijing, by comparison, are quite dull and undersaturated, but this would have almost certainly been an artistic choice during the filming. The lack of bleeding or misregistration makes this an excellent disc to demonstrate DVD's profound ability to retain a film's colours.

    MPEG artefacts were not a problem for this transfer. Unfortunately, film-to-video artefacts are just enough of a problem to warrant point deductions, as aliasing is frequently present, and occasionally gets severe enough to be a slight distraction. Standout examples of aliasing occur at 03:52, 06:26, 14:16, 19:49, 32:36, 51:01, 61:16, and 78:59. The worst examples were all found within the first thirty minutes of the film, after which point things settled down to a more acceptable level. Film artefacts were so small and hard to notice most of the time that they may as well have not been there, which made the one or two large ones easier to ignore.

    This disc uses the RSDL format, with the layer change taking place at 74:48. There is a slight pause in the ambient sounds that accompany this point in the film, so it is noticeable, but the placement is quite good.


    There are five soundtracks on this DVD, three of which are encoded in Dolby Digital 5.1 with a bitrate of 384 kilobits per second: the original English dialogue, and dubs in French and Spanish. Rounding out the soundtracks are a Czechoslovakian dub in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding and a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second, and a commentary in Dolby Digital 2.0 with a bitrate of 192 kilobits per second. I listened to the original English dialogue and the commentary in their entirety, and sampled a couple of passages in Spanish for good measure.

    The dialogue is clear and easy to understand, within the minor limits of the Chinese actors' accents. Roger Yuan occasionally said one or two words that were a little hard to make out, and Jackie Chan takes a little getting used to if you haven't heard him speak before, but aside from these two minor caveats, the dialogue is impeccable. There were no discernible problems with audio sync.

    The music in this film consists of a handful of contemporary numbers and a score by Randy Edelman, which mixes some well-imitated oriental themes with more traditional themes. The overall effect of the score is quite good, in that the oriental themes are suitably convincing, not to mention the fact that they enhance the mood of the scenes they appear in, and the traditional themes complement the story. Some of the contemporary numbers seem quite out of place, but this is a minor complaint.

    The surround channels were constantly active to support the action sequences, with the sounds of axes or Sheriff badges flying through the air being well-supported by the surrounds. Most of the dialogue sequences were well-supported by the surround channels too, with the ambient sounds of rivers and other such natural wonders being well placed within the 5.1 soundfield. It all adds up to a well-balanced soundtrack that immerses the listener in the film without spoiling the illusion by using the surround channels when there's nothing in the soundtrack that requires them, which isn't all that often. The subwoofer had a whale of a time during this film, supporting the action sequences and music throughout the film without calling any specific attention to itself. With the bass-heavy nature of the oriental music in particular, the subwoofer was well-integrated into the overall mix.



    The menu is static, featuring a digital version of the cover art and some appropriately themed options. It is 16x9 Enhanced, but very slow to respond to the remote control, which significantly increases the annoyance factor of turning on the commentary track.

Audio Commentary - Jackie Chan (Actor), Owen Wilson (Actor), Tom Dey (Director)

    One of the first things that is made clear during this commentary is that Jackie Chan was not present while Owen Wilson and Tom Dey were recording their contributions. Through the miracle of splicing, however, his comments are integrated into this track at the appropriate moments, and they are quite revealing when one gets over the accent with which he delivers them. His contribution to this commentary is indispensable as he talks about such things as the advantages of doing all his own stunts, and exactly why he's consistently made that choice throughout his career. The commentary is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 with surround encoding. Jackie Chan's, Owen Wilson's and Tom Dey's voices are mixed into the front and centre channels, while the film's soundtrack is quietly mixed into the rears. Rabid fans of Jackie Chan will find this commentary fascinating and worthy of listening to again and again, while the rest of us will find it worthy of the occasional repeated listen.

Deleted Scenes

    A collection of eight deleted scenes, presented in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1 with 16x9 Enhancement and Dolby Digital 2.0 production sound. Most of these deleted scenes really add something to the narrative, so it's something of a puzzle as to why they were cut. A commentary from the director to clear this up would have been nice, but the only such comments on offer are in the feature's commentary, and only a couple of the cuts are explained there. Of extreme annoyance is the fact that they are encoded without chaptering or timing information.

Featurette - Making An Eastern Western

    Presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, this featurette is not 16x9 Enhanced. Like the deleted scenes, it is encoded without timing information, which is a very annoying touch. I can't really say this featurette impressed me as revealing anything insightful about the film or the process of making it.

Featurette - Partners

    Once again, this featurette failed to impress me as being particularly insightful. This featurette is also presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and also without 16x9 Enhancement or timing information.

Featurette - Jackie's Comedy

    Unlike the previous two featurettes, this featurette presents an insightful idea in the shape of Jackie Chan being the last silent-film comedian, and uses footage from a Buster Keaton film that features similar situations to support this. The effect is surprisingly better than most featurettes that attempt to do tricks like that. This featurette is once again presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, and also without 16x9 Enhancement or timing information.

Featurette - Western Stunts, Eastern Style

    As with the last three featurettes, this one is presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, without 16x9 Enhancement or timing information. This featurette gives a brief insight into the manner in which Jackie Chan goes about creating and improvising fight scenes, but I would have preferred a lengthier look at this process, like the Anatomy Of A Shoot-Out featurette that can be found on the Desperado DVD.

Featurette - Hanging With Roy And The Kid

    This featurette is also presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, without 16x9 Enhancement or timing information. Again, the scene covered in this featurette could have made for an excellent insight into the process of creating an action scene, but it fails to deliver.

Featurette - Action Overload

    This extended promotional trailer is also presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, without 16x9 Enhancement or timing information. It makes an acceptable substitute for the theatrical trailer that is conspicuously absent from this disc.

Featurette - Choo Choo Boogie

    This featurette is presented in Full Frame with footage from the film in the aspect ratio of 2.35:1, without 16x9 Enhancement or timing information. It covers the effects shots used in a sequence that was deleted from the film, and once again fails to deliver any truly meaningful insight into the making of said shots.

Music Video - Uncle Kracker: Yeah, Yeah, Yeah

    Presented Full Frame with Dolby Digital 2.0 sound, this music video is not 16x9 Enhanced. It doesn't really seem to contain anything that qualifies as music, either.

R4 vs R1

    The Region 4 version of this disc misses out on;     Aside from these extras, which are hardly detailed on any site at all, there does not appear to be much difference between the two versions of this DVD. Having viewed the Region 1 DVD's transfer of the feature on another system, I found the picture to be unnaturally harsh with soft backgrounds and oversaturated looking colours. The Region 4 version is marginally superior in this respect, with a more natural colour balance and a clearer-looking image.


    Shanghai Noon is a fun comedy with some action elements, which makes me wish for more Jackie Chan films on DVD. Don't let films like Rush Hour or the trappings of the more standardized action film fool you: Chan can act, and he plays his well-chosen role to a certain perfection here.

    The video quality is good, let down only by problems with aliasing.

    The audio quality is excellent, bordering on reference quality.

    The extras are comprehensive, but the featurettes lack a certain insightful quality.

Ratings (out of 5)

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© Dean McIntosh (my bio sucks... read it anyway)
February 7, 2000
Review Equipment
DVD Toshiba SD-2109, using S-video output
Display Samsung CS-823AMF (80 cm) in 16:9 and 4:3 modes, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Audio Decoder Built In (Amplifier)
Amplification Sony STR-DE835, calibrated using the NTSC DVD version of Video Essentials.
Speakers Yamaha NS-45 Front Speakers, Yamaha NS-90 Rear Speakers, Yamaha NS-C120 Centre Speaker, JBL Digital 10 Active Subwoofer