Shanghai Noon

Jackie Chan plays a member of the Chinese Imperial Guard who, in 1881, races to the Old West, where he and a reluctant cowboy (Owen Wilson) team up to save a princess - and each other - from an array of bad guys.

I hadn't seen Jackie Chan in an American film up until this point, and while his charm is indisputable in any language, I do miss the manic chaos of the Hong Kong films. The Hollywood style is, by nature, too clunky for kung fu - American directors continue to be absolutely at sea when it comes to capturing fight choreography with a camera. However, as a piece of pure escapism, Shanghai Noon delivers.

The unexpected high point of the movie is Wilson, who as a neurotic talkative outlaw with modern-sounding gripes ("These guns are weird!") is hilarious. As the screenplay itself is typically hackneyed junk, I wonder if sometime-writer Wilson (he cowrote Rushmore) was allowed to script some of his own material. He and Chan keep the movie from settling entirely into tired cliche. And the scenery (a green, mountainous Alberta, Canada substituting for a Nevada that never existed) is breathtaking.

If you're going to make disposable fluff, you might as well make it right. And Shanghai Noon (mostly) gives you what you came for.