Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson reprise their characters of Wang and O'Bannon in this second installment of the series. I hope there will be a third!
Chan's slapstick fight sequences are even better here than in Shanghai Noon. They're bigger, better and there are more of them! In addition to all of the clever integration of set items (fruit stands, wax sculptures, books, ladders, etc) that we are accustomed to, the Shanghai Knights sequences are also imbued with a wonderful sense of meta-humor. While he's using an umbrella in his kung fu against the Fleet Street gang, there is a sudden brief and whimsical nod to Singin In The Rain, complete with flawless stylisms by Chan.
I believe the use of actual characters from the period was a bit overdone. At times they were cute winks to the audience while, at other times, they seemed needlessly inserted. Distracting. One very nice addition was Jack the Ripper, if only because of the brief and very decisive meeting he has with Wang's sister, Lin. Lin is played by Fann Wong and, as the female interest, is superior to Lucy Liu's character of the first movie.
The villains are better too. Aiden Gillen is good as Lord Rathbone, then fantastic in his action scenes. The best, however, is Donnie Yen. Yen's portrayal of the evil Wu Chow is okay, but who really cares? The character itself is merely the vehicle to get Yen and his fantastic martial arts skill into a movie with Jackie Chan. Seeing these two work together in beautifully choreographed fights was a dream come true. And though partially edited out of the actual movie, the DVD thankfully offers their climactic fight scene in its full-uncut glory.
My only disappointment of note was Wilson's O'Bannon character. He wasn't quite as consistently funny in this outing, and the character itself could have been portrayed better. There was no evolution in O'Bannon. He had the exact same deficiencies as in the first movie. I understand that the charm of O'Bannon lies in his irresponsibility, but a *little* maturing could have been accomplished while keeping the charm intact. Evolution is important to keeping the characters fresh, but O'Bannon was the same as in the first.
Overall, I rank this a little better than the first and HIGHLY recommend it!
6.5 out of 10.