The success of Jackie Chan's 1998 hit "Rush Hour" grossing more than $140 million at the box office, provided the much needed leverage to bring his ‘East meets Western' to the big screen. And Chan in chaps succeeds with charm and his usual brand of Keaton-esque kung-foolery.
Set in the American frontier in the 19th century, Chan plays a hapless Imperial Guard who goes west to rescue the Imperial Princess Pei Pei played by "Ally McBeal"'s Lucy Liu, who is kidnapped from the Forbidden City. Along the way he encounters Roy O'Bannon (Owen Wilson), a small time crook. After the customary clash they hook up to take on the Princess's kidnapper Lo Fong (Roger Yuan), an Imperial traitor.
This is the "Rush Hour" winning formula with Wilson in the Chris Tucker role, making all the wisecracks, leaving Chan to do what he does best: slick choreographed fight sequences and his now legendary stunts. Wilson scores in an amiable breakthrough performance; his improvisations and laconic surfer-dude mannerisms paper over the gaps in the script. Chan dips into the Western armoury with barroom brawls, shootouts, brothel scenes and an inventive use of antlers and horse shoes as weapons.
At times the film over-eggs the Western references with Chan's character's name Chon Wang and corrupt Sheriff named Van Cleef, but Chan looks as if he's having fun and it rubs off. With Shanghai Noon II already in the pipeline Jackie Chan's action hero status looks assured.