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Film / Shanghai Noon

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Shanghai Noon is a martial arts/Western comedy film starring Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson. Chan plays a Chinese guardsman, Chon Wang, who travels to America to rescue the kidnapped Imperial princess Pei-Pei (Lucy Liu), teaming up along the way with disreputable gunslinger Roy O'Bannon (played by Wilson), a small time robber with delusions of grandeur. Together, the two forge through one misadventure after another. Directed by Tom Dey, it was written by Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. The movie, set in Nevada and other parts of the west in the 19th century, is a juxtaposition of a western with a Jackie Chan Martial Arts Movie. 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.

A sequel called Shanghai Knights was released in 2003. Talk of a third movie titled Shanghai Dawn has been on and off for years, but nothing concrete as of late.

This film series provides examples of:

  • Accidental Marriage: Chon Wang ends up accidentally married (from his POV) to the Sioux chief's elder daughter (who knew exactly what she was doing). She follows him around for the rest of the movie, periodically saving his ass, only to end up trading him in for Roy at the end. She ditches them BOTH in the sequel.
    Sioux Shaman: [to the chief] Hey, it could be worse. She could have married a white guy.
  • Action Girl:
    • Princess Pei-Pei gets a brief spurt of ass-kicking against Lo Fong at the end of the first film.
    • Falling Leaves never engages in onscreen violence, but stealthily destroys a jail and sabotages a hanging to aid Wang and Roy using a few well-placed animals and one bullet.
    • The second film has Lin, who is easily the most obvious example in all two films. She is a martial artist whose skill rivals that of Chon.
  • All Animals Are Dogs: A horse who knows "sit" and probably a few other commands. Played for laughs, as it's a partial parody of the Improbably Well-Trained Horse common to a lot of Westerns.
  • All There in the Manual: Although she's never properly identified and is credited as "Indian Wife", Wang's Indian wife is called Falling Leaves, as noted by the title of the Deleted Scene "Falling Leaves Takes A Dip".
  • Artistic License – History: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was never a police inspector for Scotland Yard; he was a medical doctor before he became a full-time writer.
  • Bald of Evil: Lo Fong. Shiny pates may be kinda pretty, but this guy's attitude more than makes up for the dome.
  • Bar Brawl: When Chon Wang meets Roy again in a saloon after getting married by accident, he unwittingly exposes Roy's cheating in cards. Chaos ensues. According to the DVD Commentary Tom Dey had to explain to Jackie Chan that it couldn't just be him fighting the bad guys because that's not how the trope works.
  • Battle Discretion Shot: When Wang skirmishes with Roy inside the pharmacy:
    Van Cleef: What the hell is going on in there?
    [Roy is thrown through the front window out into the street]
  • Been There, Shaped History:
    • Lin is attacked by Jack the Ripper on a bridge. Being a martial artist on par with Chon, Lin easily dispatches him, crediting her with putting an end to the killer's reign of terror.
    • Earlier in the film, Roy uses the alias "Sherlock Holmes" to sneak into a party within the palace. At the end of the film, Sir Arthur reveals he is retiring from the police force and is going to write a novel about a detective named after the false identity Roy used. Roy thinks it is a terrible idea.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Each film has a Chinese outlaw and a Westerner working together, so that both Wang and Roy have somebody to fight at the climax, although in Noon, Lo Fong is more the Big Bad while Van Cleef is The Dragon.
  • Big Damn Heroes: Wang and Roy fail at this whenever the Rule of Funny calls for it, but succeed whenever the Rule of Drama is in play. There's also all the times Falling Leaves shows up to pull them out of trouble such as when they're in prison or about to be executed.
  • Bilingual Bonus: In the title sequence of Noon, the Chinese text is a Chinese translation of The Frog Prince.
  • Blind Obedience: Wang's character arc in Noon revolves around him learning how to think for himself and not to simply follow orders.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows: Guns and swords in a church. And Roy dressed up as a monk ...
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Subverted and parodied, as the Indians Wang befriended earlier show up to save the day. The shot is even matched.
  • Bookcase Passage: The fireplace subtype. It's a woman's breast.
  • British Teeth: Roy bumps into a pretty young English girl, and begins flirting, only for her to smile, revealing a set of truly atrocious dirty chompers, causing Roy to recoil in fear.
  • Catch and Return: When protecting Little Feather against a pair of angry rival braves, Wang catches their thrown tomahawks in midair and chucks them back, right into their waiting hands.
  • Charlie Chaplin Shout-Out: The titular characters meet a very young boy who happens to be Charlie Chaplin.
  • Cheaters Never Prosper: Van Cleef lies to Roy (who's down to his last bullet), saying he's emptied his guns so that they both have a single shot left. Every single one of Van Cleef's shots miss; Roy's one shot hits him dead in the chest.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Lord Rathbone was offhandedly mentioned to be a great swordman early by Doyle. Rathbone proceeds to effortlessly kick Wang's ass using said skill in the climax, forcing Wang to improvise.
  • Chessmaster Sidekick: The Sioux chief's elder daughter, in the first movie, helps them out just about every time the protagonists are incapable of helping themselves.
  • The Chief's Daughter: Chon Wang ends up married to her in Noon.
  • Chinese Laborer: Prominently featured in Noon.
  • *Click* Hello: In Noon, first done by Roy to Long, then by the Marshal to everybody.
  • Crashing Dreams:
    • From surrounded by lovely ladies, to playful biting, to waking up and getting half-eaten by vultures in the first movie.
    • And again in the second movie, the same character dreams of the girl he likes making out with him, then wakes up accompanied by a sheep.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Van Cleef falls into this at times.
    Roy: [missing wildly] Did I hit you?!
    Van Cleef: No. But you're getting really close.
  • Destination Defenestration: Chon Wang tosses Roy out of a window when he realizes that being associated with Roy makes him a wanted outlaw.
  • Deus ex Machina: At the climax of the first film in the duel between Roy and Van Cleef in the church, both charge at each other guns blazing; Van Cleef hits the pillar Roy was hiding behind several times but only manages to hit Roy's draping sleeve, Roy misses all his shots except one that hits Van Cleef square in the chest. The look on Roy's face afterward shows he thinks he's blessed.
  • Dirty Cop: Sheriff Van Cleef. He was a collaborator of Lo Fong's plan to ransom Princess Pei Pei, likely in exchange for a cut of the gold.
  • Enemy Mine: Strangely subverted. Even though Chon Wang and the Imperial Guards both want to protect the princess, just disagreeing on what that means, they waste time fighting each other, which nearly allows the guy who wants to kill her to succeed.
  • Eternally Pearly-White Teeth: Wallace has unusually white teeth even though he is often covered in an expected amount of grime.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Roy isn't entirely evil, but at the start of Noon he is disgusted that Wallace kills Chon Wang's uncle. He even outs Wallace for the crime when Wang confronts him about it.
  • Fish out of Water: Jackie Chan as a Chinese imperial guard in the Old West. Hilarity Ensues!
  • Fun with Acronyms: Thief Roy O'Bannon has his initials on his gun: R.O.B.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: The two hilarious Native Americans in the first film.
  • Gatling Good: Rathbone's Gatling Gun, though he refers to it as a Machine Gun, a weapon that wouldn't be invented for a few more decades.
  • Gentleman Thief: Roy is a particularly nice one of these as leader of his gang before meeting Wang, but has the unfortunately poor judgement of character to choose underlings who are cruel, stupid, Ax-Crazy and far too ambitious all at once.
  • Gilligan Cut: In Noon, after a very intense drinking game, Roy has gotten tired, but Wang wants another round. Roy tells Wang "No mas. No more drinking." Cut to them furiously playing again.
  • Given Name Reveal: At the end of the film, Roy reveals that his name isn't really Roy O'Bannon but Wyatt Earp, much to Wang's amusement.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: A couple of times Roy's untrained flailing actually results in him landing a good blow, at one point causing him to quip: "I don't know karate but I know kah-razy!" (with apologies to James Brown). Subverted three seconds later as he is thrown through the window.
  • Greeting Gesture Confusion: When they finally decide to work together, Roy offers Wang a cowboy handshake, spitting on his hand before offering it. Wang, confused and a bit grossed, spits on Roy's hand before shaking it, rather than his own.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Subverted — "Oh, you mean the sick prisoner routine? Does that still work in China? 'Cause here it's sorta been done to death."
  • Handsome Lech: Roy O'Bannon is always being adored by ladies and he is constantly frequenting brothels.
  • Hilarious Outtakes: As the credits roll, just like in Rush Hour and Jackie Chan's Hong Kong movies.
  • Historical In-Joke: WAY too many to list here. We start with Charlie Chaplin tagging with the heroes, who get him into the film business.
  • Historical Person Punchline:
    • That kid who's been hanging around all movie? His name's Charlie Chaplin.
    • And the bumbling Inspector who always wished to be an author? Arthur Conan Doyle.
    • Roy himself; his real name is Wyatt Earp.
  • Horsing Around: The palomino ridden by Chon Wang has a mind of its own and rarely responds to his wishes unless it wants to.
  • Hostage For Macguffin: In the second movie, after recovering the Imperial seal in the wax museum, two Boxer rebels capture the street urchin who wanted the seal to hock it off himself, and threaten to kill him if Roy doesn't give it back. He does, and they release the boy.
  • I Choose to Stay: Princess Pei-Pei decides to stay in America and help the Chinese immigrants living there.
  • Immune to Bullets: Roy O'Bannon, in the movie's final firefight, walks away with the priest robes he was wearing looking like Swiss cheese, but no a scratch on him, briefly leading him to believe that he is invincible. Course, at the end he reveals his real name is Wyatt Earp, so he may be onto something there.
  • I'm Not Hungry: In Noon, Lo Fong tries to give some food to Princess Pei-Pei. She immediately knocks the tray over.
  • Imperial Stormtrooper Marksmanship Academy: A heroic example in the first film; Roy only hits his target once during the whole movie. The second film has one of the villains using a mounted machine gun but doesn't hit any of his intended targets, although it's slightly justified in that no one's really used one before.
  • Improvised Weapon: In typical Jackie Chan movie fashion Chon Wang employs them in every fight scene. Whether it's tree branches, a giant bear statue or a pair of moose antlers, if it can be picked up it's a lethal weapon in Wang's hands.
  • Indian Maiden: While lost in the woods, Wang rescues a young Native American boy from a rival tribe, and finds himself married to the boy's older sister as a reward.
  • Indy Ploy: Parodied, when Roy — at this point a train robber — comes up with an elaborate and well-timed plan to stop the train and get the money seamlessly. His men — who aren't the brightest of the bunch — stare blankly and Roy reluctantly agrees to "wing it."
  • Informed Flaw: It's never really made clear how Wang is considered such an inept embarrassment in China. When he gets to the United States he rampages through most of his opponents, only having trouble with two other highly trained martial artists, one of whom (Lo Fong) fought dirty at every opportunity.
  • In Love with Your Carnage: Roy changes his mind about Wang after the Bar Brawl.
  • In My Language, That Sounds Like...: Word of God describes this happening in Noon, when the Indian chief tries to teach Wang to say the American Indian greeting "How", whereas in Chinese, "hao" means "good".
  • Inscrutable Oriental: This trope comes to mind during the jail scene in Noon, in which Roy keeps trying to get Wang to relax.
  • Insistent Terminology: When Wang confronts Roy in the saloon after following Roy's directions to Carson City got him badly lost, he accuses Roy of giving him "bad directions". Roy, who Wang left buried up to his neck in sand with only a pair of chopsticks in his mouth to dig himself out with, calmly corrects Wang that he gave him wrong directions.
  • Interchangeable Asian Cultures:
    • Roy does this throughout the first film. After breaking out of jail, Roy says to Wang "You believe in karma over there, right?" and "I guess this is what your people call 'Sayonara'." Wang throws the latter line back at him because he overheard him telling Fifi that he isn't really his friend.
    • In the second film, Wang goes undercover by dressing up as a Maharaja of India (of the province "Nehvaduh"), and Roy tells Wang to wobble his head to look more Indian. When Wang protests that he's Chinese, Roy says they're the same thing. It doesn't seem like anyone at the high-class British party notices anyway.
    • And then dismissed immediately after: Rathbone has spent time in India and China and it's implied he sees right through the disguise. He doesn't make a scene, however, in favor of blithely discussing his hopes that China follows India's example of accepting British rule.
  • Ironic Echo: In the first film: "This is the West, not the East. And the sun may rise there, but here is where it sets."
  • King Incognito: Pei-Pei is held prisoner without her identity being revealed to the railroad slaves. Wang blows her cover when he bows to her.
  • Land in the Saddle: Roy and Wang attempt to leap from the bordello balcony to escape Van Cleef. Roy is successful; Wang, who has never done this before and is drunk besides, lands on the horse backwards. The horse is also drunk, and falls over.
  • Last-Name Basis: Played with. Roy inadvertently uses this with Wang under the assumption that it's his given name when following classic Chinese naming structure it would have been, well, Wang.
  • Laughably Evil: Wallace. He's a scary, murderous psycho, but it's hard not to laugh at him.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: As Lo Fong corners a weakened Wang, Princess Pei-Pei springs into action (even as she's injured herself) and kicks Lo Fong's ass long enough for Wang to get the upper hand for good.
  • Let's You and Him Fight: Wang initially has to fight off an Imperial Guard in the climax before they realize Pei-Pei's in danger and must confront Lo Fong.
  • Lovable Rogue: Roy.
  • Made of Iron: Wang and Roy take a ton of punishment over the course of the movie and neither of them seem seriously or permanently hurt. Wang takes a twenty foot fall down church bell tower hitting multiple ropes on the way down and is able to get back up relatively quickly. Roy is shoved across the entire length of a bar into a giant table full of sharp glass and pretty much just walks it off.
  • Master Swordsman: Lord Rathbone, who is called 'the finest swordsman in England'. And shows it by effortlessly defeating Wang.
  • Mexican Standoff: Lampshaded. The corrupt sheriff comes in during the ransom money trade-off and pulls out dual pistols, which equates to a lot of weapons drawn and a lot of targets.
    Sheriff Van Cleef: What do you know ... it's a Mexican standoff ... only we ain't got no Mexicans.
  • Mighty Whitey: Inverted by Wang, who comes from China to the Wild West and immediately gains recognition in both Native American and white circles through his martial arts skills.
  • Mistaken Ethnicity: Jedediah, the Mormon settler who gives Chon Wang's fellow Chinese Imperial guardsmen a lift, assumes that they're Jewish, while his wife thinks they're Native Americans.
  • Militaries Are Useless: The three Imperial Guardsmen - described as the bravest of the Emperor's guards - accomplish very little in the first film. In the final confrontation two of them are easily taken out by Lo Fong and Van Cleef, and the third wastes time fighting Wang instead of saving the princess before being incapacitated. They never once win a single fight.
  • Monumental Battle: Big Ben in the second film.
  • Mugging the Monster: Jack the Ripper tries to attack Lin after she has just left her inn in a bad mood. End result is, at least we know why the killings suddenly stopped.
  • My Life Flashed Before My Eyes: "My life is flashing before my eyes! Wait! I don't remember her."
  • My Sister Is Off-Limits: Chon Wang acts like this when Lin and Roy start getting along.
  • Noble Demon: Lo Fong may have resorted to kidnapping and extortion but he was perfectly willing to let Princess Pei Pei go after the ransom had been paid, at least initially.
  • Noodle Implements: "She picked the lock using a deck of rather risque playing cards, then she scaled the walls using a mop, a fork, and various pilfered undergarments. You've got to hand it to the Chinese; they're really quite ingenious, aren't they?"
  • Noodle Incident: The circumstances that caused Lo Fong to become a traitor. It's mentioned that he "ran away from the Forbidden City" but that's all the audience is told.
  • Normal Fish in a Tiny Pond: Chon Wang is considered incompetent and embarrassing in China and was sent to America to keep his uncle company and to get rid of him, in America and Britain he's a One-Man Army.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: Roy claims to have dug himself out of the hole he was trapped in, using only the chopsticks Wang gave him.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Wu Chow has this expression right before he explodes. Rathbone also gets an ... off-putting look on his face when Wang cuts the support ropes.
    • In the first film, Lo Fong gets a brief one before the rope hangs him skyward. Wang gets a comedic one when an Indian catches his thrown axe.
    • During the bar fight in the first film, Roy stands by and excitedly watches like a spectator as Wang beats the tar out of a bunch of thugs, only to start with the Oh, Crap! faces when he realizes the fight is heading his way — and that Wang is still pissed at him.
  • One Bullet Left: This first movie has this in probable homage to A Fistful of Dollars. Roy O'Bannon has one bullet left in his gun, and says as much to Van Cleef. Out of a "sense of fair play," Van Cleef mimes emptying his still fully-loaded revolvers, leading to a final shootout with Roy's one bullet vs. his 12. Roy gets him right through the heart.
    Van Cleef: Now how the hell did that happen? [collapses]
  • Plot-Mandated Friendship Failure: In both movies, Wang and Roy are split when one overhears the other saying they're not really friends; Roy tells a woman he's not friends with Wang in Noon and Wang tells Lin that Roy isn't really his friend in Knights. They get better.
  • Pocket Protector:
    • Subverted. When Roy shoots the corrupt sheriff at the climax of the first movie, the bullet goes right through the center of the sheriff star, leaving a big hole.
    • Also subverted when Doyle is shot in the second movie.
  • Portrait Painting Peephole: Wang thinks that he sees the eyes in a painting move, while Roy, engrossed in a book about the Kama Sutra, dismisses him — until he sees it for himself and freaks out. It turns out that Wang's sister has been hiding inside the painting.
  • Precision F-Strike: In the outtakes:
    Owen Wilson: "John," come back here, I'm talking to you!
    Jackie Chan: Ask me if I give a shit! laughs
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: Wang to Lo Fong: "Adios, partner!"
  • Prepare to Die: Lo Fong to Wang at the end of the first: "Now it is time for you to die." Cue Wang's Pre-Mortem One-Liner.
  • Produce Pelting: One of the spectators when Roy and Wang are about to be hanged.
  • Pun-Based Title: Based on the classic Western High Noon. A little stealthy though.
  • Rank Scales with Asskicking:
    • Rathbone basically hands Wang his head.
    • From the same film, Rathbone's partner in regicide Wu Chow also hands Wang his rear.
    • Princess Pei-Pei can kick some ass too.
  • Reality Is Unrealistic: In the DVD commentary, director Tom Dey mentions that one review praised the movie for using CGI only to create the Forbidden City in China, even though they actually shot on location at the Forbidden City.
  • Rebellious Princess / Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Pei-Pei does not wish to return to the Forbidden City, as she feels she can be a more involved ambassador in the States, and her initial intent in going to the States was to escape an arranged marriage to a barely adolescent boy. She ends up burning the scroll that contains the Imperial Guard's orders to bring her back as an act of finality.
  • Sand Necktie: Roy is left stranded in a desert buried from the neck down. Chon Wang comes across him, interrogates him, and gives him a pair of chop sticks to excavate himself with... by using his mouth.
  • Scared of What's Behind You: Wang is in the middle of a fight with several Crow warriors, and picks up a bone to use as a weapon, which seemingly causes them to panic and run off. After putting down the bone in disgust, he looks behind him to see an army of Sioux on the hill that really scared them away. Fortunately, Wang just saved the Sioux chief's son, so he's quickly put in their good graces.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You:
    • Shanghai Noon: Jackie Chan Is About to Give You the Best High Five Ever While Owen Wilson Shoots at Something in the Distance.
    • Shanghai Knights: Jackie Chan Is About to Kick You in the Shoulder While Owen Wilson Jumps Up and Down.
  • Shameless Fanservice Girl: In the Deleted Scene where Roy walks in on Falling Leaves Skinny Dipping, she's not bothered by his presence and doesn't hesitate to emerge from the water naked in front of him.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the first film, before almost being hanged, the hangman says to Wang and Roy "Nothing personal, boys," just like in another western comedy.
    • In the first film, Roy says "I don't know karate, but I do know kar-azy", which is a line from the James Brown song "Payback".
  • Shut Up, Kirk!: When Lo Fong chastises Wang for his blind obedience, Wang retorts "At least I still have my honor." In response, Lo Fong holds a dagger in front of Wang, saying "Slaves have no honor," and cuts Wang's queue off.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: At the end of the first movie, Wang's utterly silent Indian wife (from an Accidental Marriage) performs this on a babbling Roy, then delivers her only English line in the film: "Shut up, Roy; you talk too much."
  • Sir Swears-a-Lot: Pretty much every sentence Wallace says has a swear word in it.
  • Spoofing in the Rain: While Jackie Chan is beating up villains with an umbrella the musical arrangement quotes "Singin' In The Rain".
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Wu Chow's favorite way of showing up, which does not amuse Rathbone one bit.
    Rathbone: MUST you keep doing that?
  • This Cannot Be!: The sheriff is a little more than taken aback when Roy shoots him despite only having one bullet to the sheriff's loaded dual pistols, and through the badge no less.
    Van Cleef: How the hell did that happen?
  • Training Montage: From the first film, as Roy and Falling Leaves teach Wang how to be a cowboy, with Kid Rock's "Cowboy" as soundtrack no less.
  • Traumatic Haircut: The first movie has Wang lose his queue when Wang and Roy are captured by the princess's kidnapper, Lo Fong; he cuts Wang's hair off, knowing exactly what this means for him if he should try to return to China. (Death and dishonor, to be brief; see the Real Life example on that page for the significance of this act.)
  • The Trope Kid: Wang is listed on a wanted poster as "The Shanghai Kid." His partner notes, "That's a really cool nickname, too." Jackie's character immediately complains that he's not really from Shanghai.
  • Toplessness from the Back: What the audience sees of Falling Leaves when Roy accidentaly catches her bathing in a Deleted Scene, along with Shoulders-Up Nudity.
  • Tuckerization: In Shanghai Noon, Jackie Chan's character is named Chon Wang (John Wayne), and in the sequel, Shanghai Knights, Owen Wilson's character uses the name Sherlock Holmes as an alias. A nearby Arthur Conan Doyle hears the name, and likes it. While Owen Wilson's character goes by Roy O'Bannon, he reveals at the end of the first movie that he changed it from Wyatt Earp. Finally, the kid sidekick in the second film is none other than Charlie Chaplin.
  • Villain Has a Point: Van Cleef asking how Roy with his horrendous gunplay can survive in the Old West which isn't an invalid question. Especially considering Roy doesn't have much of a response.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Wang and Roy are at each other's throats throughout Noon due to their initial conflict but become good friends by the end.
  • "Wanted!" Poster: Chon Wang and Roy O'Bannon find wanted posters for themselves. Guess which one has a higher reward?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Van Cleef's deputies disappear after the scene where they first try to capture Roy.
  • Where Do You Think You Are?: "This is the West, not the East. And the sun may rise there, but here is where it sets."
  • You Can't Go Home Again: Wang losing his queue means that he can't return to China.
  • You Killed My Father: Wang initially wants revenge on Roy for killing his uncle, although he accepts Roy's excuse that it was actually done by Wallace, an uncontrollable idiot rookie from his gang (who had already betrayed him).