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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Tom Dey|
|Produced by||Jackie Chan
|Written by||Alfred Gough
Lucy Liu, Xander Berkeley
|Music by||Randy Edelman|
|Edited by||Richard Chew|
|Distributed by||Buena Vista Pictures|
|Running time||110 minutes|
The film, set in Nevada and other parts of the American West in the 19th century, is a juxtaposition of a western with a kung fu action film with extended martial arts sequences. It also has elements of comedy and the "Buddy Cop" film genre, as it involves two men of different personalities and ethnicities (a Chinese imperial guard and a Western outlaw) who team up to stop a crime. It was partially filmed in the Canadian Badlands, near Drumheller, Alberta, Canada, and also near Cochrane, Alberta. A sequel, Shanghai Knights, was released in 2003.
Chon Wang is a Chinese imperial guard in 1881. After Princess Pei-Pei, for whom Wang has affection, is abducted and taken to the United States, the Emperor of China sends three of his guards to retrieve her. Wang is not among one of the three, but he tells them that it was his fault the princess was kidnapped. The Captain of the Imperial Guards first refuses, but when the Royal Interpreter, Wang's uncle, offers to allow Wang to come help with the baggage, the Captain agrees in the hopes that the "foreign devils" would get rid of Wang. In Nevada, Roy O'Bannon is an outlaw who, with his gang, hijacks the train Wang is on. When Wallace, a member of Roy's gang, kills Wang's uncle, Wang chases the outlaws down. However, the gang is well-armed and Wang's only choice is to unhinge the cars and get away on the engine. In the process, Wallace takes over the gang from Roy, and they leave him buried up to his chin in the desert sand. Meanwhile, Pei-Pei, who was tricked into believing she was freely escaping her arranged marriage in China, finds out she has been kidnapped by an agent of Lo Fong, who ran away from the Forbidden City and was viewed as a traitor by the Chinese.
When Wang finds Roy buried in the sand, he demands to know the direction to Carson City. Roy tells him that the city is on the other side of a mountain. Wang puts two chop sticks in Roy's mouth for him to dig himself out. When Wang comes out the other side of the mountain, he gets involved with a Sioux tribe by saving a boy chased by the Crow tribe and ends up reluctantly marrying the tribe chief's daughter, Falling Leaves. Wang finds Roy in a tavern and, in anger, starts a fight with him that turns into a barroom brawl. The two of them get sent to prison, and after Falling Leaves helps them escape, they become friends. Roy trains Wang in the ways of the cowboy.
When they get to Carson City, Roy discovers that both he and Wang, now identified as the "Shanghai Kid" are wanted by Lo Fong's ally Marshal Nathan Van Cleef, and the two of them narrowly escape. They go to a bordello (which Roy describes as his "hideout"), but after a drunken encounter by Wang, the Marshal eventually catches and arrests them. They find out that Lo Fong is behind the kidnapping of the princess. As they are about to be hanged, Wang manages to break himself free and after Falling Leaves shoots Roy loose, they escape the execution site. Wang, upset over Roy previously telling one of the prostitutes at the bordello he was not Wang's friend, rides off alone to find the princess. However, Roy follows him and the two reunite when Roy saves him from Fong.
The next day, the two partners go to the ransom point, the Carson City Mission church. The three imperial guards arrive with the gold, and Lo Fong has the princess in hand. However, a simple exchange becomes complicated when Wang shows up and Roy points a gun towards Fong. Wang tells his fellow guards that he will not allow them to bring the princess back to China. As the Chinese and Lo Fong fight amongst themselves, Van Cleef arrives and engages Roy in a gunfight. After Roy is limited to one remaining bullet, Van Cleef simultaneously fires both of his guns but Roy (unscathed due to all of Van Cleef's shots missing him and going through the priest's robe he wore for a disguise) shoots him in the heart. Wang fights the Imperial Guards whilst Lo Fong chases Pei-Pei through the rafters of the church. After Wang knocks all three Guards unconscious he fights Lo Fong to the bell tower, though one of the Guards is wounded in the fight. Wang ultimately kills Lo Fong by dismantling the bell causing it to hang him. When they awaken, the Imperial Guards decide that they will let the princess stay.
Wallace and his gang also come up to the church, and demand that Roy and Wang come out and fight. But when the two of them get outside the church to face Wallace, Natives from all around surround the gang. At a Chinese cultural celebration Roy thanks Falling Leaves for saving him and they engage in a passionate kiss. At the same time, Pei-Pei holds a smiling Wang's hand. Roy and Wang are shown as sheriffs and ride off to catch a new band of train robbers.
- Jackie Chan as Chon Wang (doubled by Andy Cheng and Yuen Biao)
- Owen Wilson as Roy O'Bannon
- Lucy Liu as Princess Pei-Pei (doubled by Marny Eng)
- Brandon Merrill as Falling Leaves
- Xander Berkeley as Marshal Nathan Van Cleef
- Roger Yuan as Lo Fong
- Kate Luyben as Fifi
- Jason Connery as Calvin Andrews
- Simon R. Baker as Little Feather (doubled by Marny Eng)
- Walton Goggins as Wallace
- Henry O as Royal Interpreter
- Yu Rongguang as Imperial Guard Rong Guang Yu
- Eric Chen as Imperial Guard Eric Chi Cheng Chen
- Yuen Biao as Saloon Fighter (uncredited)
- Garvin Cross (stunts)
Produced at a budget of $55,000,000, the film grossed $99,274,467. The film opened in third place at the North American box office grossing USD$19.6 million in its opening weekend behind Dinosaur and Mission: Impossible II.
Shanghai Noon was well received by critics, receiving a composite 79% "certified fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Joe Leydon of Variety gave Shanghai Noon a favorable review, characterizing it as "Fast, furious and, quite often, very, very funny." It holds a Metacritic score of 77 out of 100.
The title (a pun on the Gary Cooper classic High Noon) and several names used in the film pay homage to earlier westerns. Chan's character, "Chon Wang" is meant to sound like John Wayne, and the antagonist, Nathan Van Cleef, is an homage to Lee Van Cleef, who played in the 1976 kung-fu western film The Stranger and the Gunfighter, among other roles in major westerns. In addition, Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson's character) reveals at the end that his real name is Wyatt Earp, which Chon laughingly dismisses as "a terrible name for a cowboy" (the same line having been said earlier by Roy to Chon, playing on the latter's name's resemblance to John Wayne).
- The Chinese characters shown in the background during the opening credits are excerpts from a translation of "The Frog Prince."
- The song playing during the first bar-fight sequence is "La Grange" by ZZ Top, the same song that plays during The Dirty Dozen (1967)-style, and in intro of the characters in Armageddon (1998), an earlier film which starred Owen Wilson.
- The song played when Roy is teaching Chon to be a cowboy is Kid Rock's "Cowboy".
- The line "I don't know karate, but I know crazy" is from the James Brown song "Payback", from the 1973 album of the same name. Though this line is anachronistic in the film as "karate" was not even developed as such in Japan by this time yet.
- During the scene where Roy and Chon are drunk in the hotel, director Tom Dey hoped to include a drunken kung fu scene as an homage to The Legend of Drunken Master (1994). There was no time to choreograph such a scene, so Dey showed Chon blowing bubbles from his mouth, as Wong Fei-hung does in the Drunken Master movie.
- The scene at the end, outside the church and heavily surrounded, is an homage to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969).
- The travelling show (seen at the end behind Roy O'Bannon's former gang) has a reference to the western TV series Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman and also a reference to Sapper's Bulldog Drummond character.
- Shanghai Noon at the Internet Movie Database
- Shanghai Noon at Metacritic
- Shanghai Noon at Rotten Tomatoes
- Shanghai Noon at AllMovie