Shanghai Knights

Jackie_Chan_and_Owen_Wilson.jpgIn the match-up pitting Jackie Chan against the Hollywood machine, Hollywood wins. This relentlessly mediocre action comedy — more or less indistinguishable from the other mediocre action movies Chan has made on his visits to L.A. — is the proof. Formulaic to the point of distraction and saddled with one of the stupidest musical scores in recent memory (not to mention the super hits of the 70s that are trotted out in a sad effort at making this shit swing), its only heart is the one worn on Jackie’s sleeve and its only soul that of lovesick Owen Wilson. Even the fight sequences, which are in fact marked with the barely perceptible stamp of their real auteur, Chan himself, are oddly inert in their staging, sapped of the wit and energy that crackles through his best Hong Kong films. At some point, knocking a popular entertainment that’s this inept yet willing to please is like kicking a puppy, and I have to admit that I did laugh out loud at one fight scene that takes place among a cache of precious heirlooms.

Here’s the real tragedy — the DVD includes a few examples, in cruddy workprint form, of the film’s longer, Chan-choreographed action sequences as they appeared before being trimmed to the bone for the final cut. That’s right. Jackie Chan’s fight sequences were dramatically shortened before his star vehicle was released. (I seem to remember this happening with the Rush Hour movies, too, probably per a Brett Ratner commentary — there’s three words that never needed to go together &#8212 on one of the DVDs.) Obviously I think this is a bad idea, but beyond that I just don’t get the logic — it’s akin to deciding that a James Bond movie has too many gadgets, or that Showgirls has too many boobies. Are audiences really demanding more dorky romantic comedy, less gorgeous balletic action? God help us.

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