SHANGHAI KNIGHTS. A great comedy with lots of fantastic pop culture references

“Shanghai Knights” is very enjoyable entertainment, guaranteeing several minutes of relaxation and fun in spotting references to other pop culture works.


2 June 2024

Jackie Chan’s career began in the 1970s. Initially, he took on small roles, even appearing alongside the legendary Bruce Lee in “Enter the Dragon.” Soon, however, he started achieving his first solo successes, such as in “Drunken Master” and “Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow.” From the very start of his career, the actor impressed with his physical form and excellent choreography of stunt scenes, in which he always personally performs. In his native Hong Kong, he is an absolute star, almost a national treasure. He recently turned seventy but shows no signs of slowing down.

Hollywood took notice of him fairly quickly, already in the 1980s. During that time, he made several films that fit his characteristic style of martial arts cinema with a large dose of comedy, such as “Rumble in the Bronx.” Soon, however, he returned to his homeland and continued to work there in cinema and other fields (he released several albums). Chan’s popularity in America experienced a renaissance in the late 1990s when he starred in Brett Ratner’s thrilling comedy “Rush Hour” (and its two sequels). The production was a great success, so the creators decided to strike while the iron was hot, and more films featuring the actor quickly followed, with varying degrees of success. Among the more successful was the Western “Shanghai Noon,” which featured a clash between the Far East and the Wild West, with Owen Wilson and Lucy Liu as co-stars. The story follows a Chinese man, Chon Wang, who travels to the USA in pursuit of Princess Pei Pei (Liu) and ends up in the Wild West. There, fate pairs him with a petty thief (Wilson). Together, they decide to rescue the princess and punish her kidnappers. The film was well received by audiences, and three years later, an even better sequel was made—”Shanghai Knights,” a great, light comedy with plenty of standout sequences featuring the Chinese actor.

shanghai knights

The sequel takes the characters to Victorian London, where they must thwart an aristocrat preparing an unpleasant surprise for the reigning queen. The plot is essentially a pretext for two things—spectacular fights with imaginative use of props and numerous fantastic pop culture references. While Chan has long accustomed us to the former, the latter greatly enhances the fun during the viewing. It includes everything from a brawl at a London market with the use of umbrellas to the tune of “Singin’ in the Rain,” to an appearance by Jack the Ripper. Chan’s character’s name is constantly mispronounced as “John Wayne” by the English, and one of the supporting characters is Arthur Conan Doyle. Another is a clever boy whom all moviegoers recognize today (here, we meet him before he found his calling). Spotting such Easter eggs is something Jackie later repeated in “Around the World in 80 Days,” a film that, although a poor adaptation of Jules Verne’s work, highlights Passepartout (played by Chan) and is a very good adventure film for viewers of all ages.

Of course, all these Easter eggs do not overshadow Chan’s fantastic skills, who over the years developed his own style, heavily drawing from the works of Harold Lloyd and Buster Keaton. The Chinese actor’s ingenuity and physical prowess know no bounds, and the stunt scenes involving him border on madness, often resulting in broken bones. The sequence from “Project A,” in which Jackie falls to the ground from a clock tower, roughly from the height of the third floor, cushioning the fall only with two canvas awnings, will go down in history. The first take didn’t satisfy the actor, so he repeated it two more times. This is what true dedication to art looks like!

Shanghai Knights” is highly enjoyable entertainment, guaranteeing several dozen minutes of relaxation and fun in spotting references to other pop culture works. From time to time, rumors emerge about a third installment of the series, but so far, they remain just plans. However, I hope that changes. There’s never enough Jackie Chan.

Written by Piotr Zymelka



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