After Owen Wilson had his breakout role in his pal Wes Anderson’s 1996 debut feature Bottle Rocket (which Wilson co-wrote), he kicked around Hollywood for a few years as a bit-player in movies like Anaconda and Armageddon, making fans of his Bottle Rocket character Dignan wish he’d been given more to do. With 2000’s Shanghai Noon, Wilson finally got another big showcase, making what amounted to Dignan Goes West (And Learns Kung-Fu). The best American Jackie Chan vehicle, Shanghai Noon has Chan playing Chon Wang, a Chinese imperial guardsman sent to the American frontier to retrieve a kidnapped princess, while Wilson plays Roy O’Bannon, an easygoing 19th-century train robber who veers between intense self-doubt and cheery self-confidence. While Chan’s not as athletic in Shanghai Noon as he was in his heyday, his Chon does come up with some creative ways to kick cowboy ass. But the MVP of the movie is Wilson, with his sun-dappled disposition, his deadpan Texas drawl, and his keen awareness that he may be too lazy to follow through on his big schemes. Back in 2000, it looked like Wilson was poised to make a whole bunch of movies like this. Instead, it’s been something of a rarity in his filmography. Shanghai Noon airs on Starz at 9 p.m. Eastern.
August 21, 2014 newsreel