At 46 years old, you'd think Jackie Chan would be ready to take up the easy life of product endorsements for backache medications and life insurance. Instead the aging stuntman is back on the silver screen playing Chon Wang, a member of China's elite Imperial Guard.
When the princess of China is kidnapped and taken to the wild western frontier of Nevada, the Emperor carefully selects three members of his guard to deliver her ransom. Unfortunately Wang, who is particularly smitten with the princess, isn't one of them. But his uncle is to act as the interpreter, so Wang offers to carry his luggage.
Arriving in Nevada, Wang finds himself in the wrong place at the right time when a group of robbers hits the train carrying the Chinese entourage. Against gang leader Roy O'Bannon's (Owen Wilson) orders, one of the members kills Wang's uncle in a heated moment. Determined to avenge his uncle's death, Wang follows the gang through Nevada on a journey full of mishaps and Wild West brawls. In a surprising twist of fate, Wang and O'Bannon end up riding together. Wang, now considered a wanted man, still hopes to free the princess, while O'Bannon, whose eyes are on the ransom money, wrestles with having a "Chinaman" for a friend.
Typical for a Jackie Chan movie, most of Shanghai Noon exists only to demonstrate Chan's incredible martial arts abilities. However, as impressive as his flips and kicks are, they still amount to gratuitous violence. (Anyone who isn't a principle cast member can consider themselves a disposable victim). Old west gunplay also results in several on-screen shootings. In between the violence, Wang enjoys a drug-laden Indian peace pipe and an extended drunken experience with O'Bannon at a brothel.
The one intriguing element of the film is the mixture of Chinese, Native American, and European immigrant culture. The resulting portrayals of prejudice against the Chinese and Native Americans may have some worthwhile moments, however parents concerned about violence should exercise caution before welcoming this cowboy (and his amazing moves) into town.