Two cultures collide when East meets West in Jackie Chan’s latest American-set movie, Shanghai Noon. The story starts in 1881 with Lucy Liu playing Princess Pei Pei, who has decided that she wants to leave the Forbidden City and travel to America in order to avoid an unwanted marriage. Unfortunately, her supposed rescuer is actually a kidnapper who holds her for ransom in Carson City, Nevada. So, the Emperor sends three Chinese Imperial Guards to safeguard the ransom in gold, along with Chon Wang (Jackie Chan), an impulsive guard who insists on hitching along. Once in America, martial law expert Chon is separated from the rest after a bungled train robbery where he meets up with laid-back outlaw Roy O’Bannon (Owen Wilson), from whom Chon eventually tries to learn the ways of a cowboy. In a partnership reminiscent of the Odd Couple, Chon is led on a wild ride across the American West to rescue the princess, where everything is strange – and everyone really is out to get him!
Disney’s video quality has been slowly improving ever since they started to produce DVD movies. Shanghai’s transfer rates is among the best of them, with a bright 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation that features vivid yet realistic colors, accurate skin tones, and reds that don’t bloom. Black levels are well calibrated throughout the entire movie, while detail and sharpness levels are top-notch. I saw no unwanted film grain, dirt or other marring factors. The 110-minute film is divided into 29 chapters and stored on a dual layered disc containing 7.6 gigabytes of data. The inconspicuous layer change occurs at 0.34 into chapter 17, or 1:17.55 into the entire movie.
I’ve always expected exceptionally active audio tracks in Jackie Chan movies, and Shanghai Noon’s Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is certainly no exception! Now this is a true action soundtrack, crisp and clear with easy-to-understand vocals, deep bass and extravagant use of the rear channels. There’s no clipping, background noise, excessive trebles, static or mysterious volume changes. Also on the disc is a Dolby Digital French track in 5.1, plus English and Spanish subtitles and English Closed Captioning information.
On the supplemental side, Shanghai Noon starts off with an audio commentary including actors Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson, plus director Tom Dey. The track is divided with each voice on its own channel, which is typically used to provide an easy way to identify the speaker. The three voices here, however, are so distinctive that such separation really isn’t necessary – and since director Tom Dey does most of the speaking, from the left channel, it can become a little distracting after a while. Apparently Jackie Chan was not originally available to record his commentary, so it was inserted at a later date.
The extra features continue with eight deleted scenes, each of which has an optional commentary track. One special scene, "Wang’s Wild Ride", even has its own featurette on production. All extra scenes are top quality with anamorphic video, so I was surprised not to see an option somewhere to "insert" them in the movie – providing a sort of faux extended cut. The one area the DVD production team really excelled at was in short featurettes – there’s a total of seven, each ranging from 2 to 4 minutes long in full-screen video and stereo sound. The topics cover general film production, Jackie’s special brand of comedy, stunts, the buddy concept, plus the making of several difficult scenes.
The disc contains two interactive trivia games, Roy’s Revenge and Chon’s Challenge. In each you watch various video clips and answer questions based on them. Finally, there’s the music video "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" by Uncle Kracker in 2.0 audio, and the original theatrical trailer in 1.85:1 video and 2.0 audio. One item I was pleased to see is that Disney is now allowing you to skip the forced preview trailers at the beginning of the movie by pressing the "MENU" key. Relief at last!
Shanghai Noon is the best Jackie Chan movie to come out in quite a few years. Concentrating more on humor and plot, it may have less action and stunts than some of his previous flicks, but is still a non-stop adventure. The unique settings, fantastic fight choreography and outrageous humor make this a great movie – with the worthwhile DVD complement of extra features thrown in to sweeten the deal.
- Reviewed by Daniel Tonks on October 16, 2000.
1-Poor 2-Fair 3-Good 4-Excellent
Sony DVP-S500D DVD Player
Sony STR-GA8ES 5.1 Receiver
Sony 32" XBR250 WEGA TV using Component
Nuance Spatial Baby Grand 3E & StarSat