Jackie Chan has his best American movie role so far as Chon Wang, an imperial guard sent from China’s Forbidden City to Colorado’s Carson City to rescue a kidnapped Princess (Lucy Liu) in the old West of 1881. Along the way he meets Roy (Owen Wilson) a smooth-talking robber and con man, and they have various adventures that provide many opportunities for humor and many, many opportunities for fight scenes that show off Chan’s trademark fast, flashy, and funny footwork.
In classic buddy movie fashion, Roy and Chon begin as antagonists, and it takes them a while (and Roy’s finding out that there is gold involved) to figure out that they are on the same side. Chan and Wilson have a nice rapport and Wilson’s easy-going surfer style works very well with Chan’s more reserved approach. Liu is elegant and beautiful at home in the palace, spirited and honorable when she finds out that she has been kidnapped and that Chinese people are being used for slave labor. And of course the fight scenes are sensational, as Chan uses anything he can get his hands and feet on to help him vanquish all the bad guys.
A lot of younger kids will want to see this movie. Parents should know that the movie has some bad language, potty humor, scenes in a brothel, and drinking and drug use (portrayed humorously, including a prolonged drinking game and a drunken horse). The racism of the era is touched on. Chong is thrown out of a bar and he is very hurt when he overhears Roy agree with an anti-Chinese comment. The prostitutes are portrayed stereotypically, but the leading women in the movie are brave, smart, capable, and loyal.
Families who see this movie should talk about how Roy and Chong learn to trust each other and work together, how Chong uses quick thinking (and a good knowledge of basic physics) to use whatever he can find to help him fight the bad guys, and how people from many different cultures reacted to life in America. Families who enjoy this movie will enjoy Chan’s other films, especially “Mr. Nice Guy” and “Rumble in the Bronx.”