‘Knights’ contains too much silliness

“Shanghai Noon” was one of the worst films of 2000. Now, three years later, a new director has decided to make a sequel.

The story begins with English politician Rathbone, (Aidan Gillen) looking for a priceless family seal and killing Chon Wangs’ (Jackie Chan) father. Wang is forced to leave his job as sheriff of Carson City, Nev., for London in pursuit of the killers. On his way, Wang decides to pay his old buddy, perpetual liar and schemer, Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson), a visit to request help, and the two ride off to England.

In England, the two cowboys learn that the ways of the British are different from those of Americans. They also learn that Wang’s sister, Lin (Fann Wong), has come from China to help capture the murderer.

“Shanghai Knights” is a particularly unfunny film that tries to wring audience laughs with cartoonish violence.

If this film could claim anything positive, it would be that it has improved visually. However, all the colors in the world couldn’t help the script.

Historical references include Roy and Wang meeting, a young Charlie Chaplin and helping Sir Arthur Conan Doyle come up with the Sherlock Holmes character.

The humor is already wacky but it’s made even worse by the film’s insistence on nudging the audience to laugh anytime the characters interact with something historical.

Of course, the real reason the audience came anyway is to see Jackie Chan fight. Admittedly, the action sequences of ” Shanghai Knights” are a fiercer and more complex than they were in “Shanghai Noon”.

Still, the carefree and slapstick Chan choreography is of questionable merit, but is presented here with more imagination and running time. As tiring as it is watching Chan, director David Dobkin delivers a nifty climax, which has Chan fighting another Chinese assassin (the legendary Donnie Yen, of “Iron Monkey”) aboard a boat. The picture really comes alive at this late juncture. Unfortunately, many earlier sections of the film were wasted on flat lining comedy.

It is an improvement from “Shanghai Noon”, no matter how slight. I just hope this upward trajectory continues in case they decide to make an appropriately titled “Shanghai Mourning”.

Julian Thompson can be reached at jay_e_thompson@hotmail.com