Best Scenes: Shanghai Knights (2003) – Final Fights

Wherein Jackie Chan fist fights Ip Man, then sword fights Little Finger back-to-back.

Another late peak Jackie Chan movie. 2003’s Shanghai Knights was a modest success and slightly underrated action sequel at a time when they were more stock in trade, packed with more- then and now talent than you would expect a 10-year-old to receive for VHS for their birthday (me). Starring late period Jackie Chan, peak Owen Wilson, and adding future ‘Ip Man’ Donnie Yen (40 years young at the time), and Game of Thrones star Aidan Gillen (Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish was 35 years old) as well as a young, then still annoying Aaron Johnson (Kick-Ass, Quicksilver in the MCU) as Charlie Chaplin. A pre-Wedding Crashers David Dobkin was hand selected by Chan himself, and the score by Randy Edelman is surprisingly memorable. As is less than par these days, the action scenes are shot with clarity by the late Adrian Biddle (continuing the series surprising trend of excellent cinematographers) and the fight scenes are choreographed with clarity and hilarity by Chan’s stunt team.

This film shows the first (and only that I can think of) match up between Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan two world-renowned and excellent martial artists. It also sports a cool tri-sword manuever by Gillen (sporting a questionable amount of period appropriate hair gel, then again Gillen is no stranger to anachronisms) at 10:17. I haven’t seen that move before or since but its cool. Uncharacteristically, in both marquee fight scenes Chan the hero does not exactly win with all the fancy legwork. He has assistance from each of his partners with his sister (a gorgeous and graceful Fann Wong) assisting in a way that’s not quite Deus Ex-Machina, and Wilson getting his comic due. Finally has to result to a little bit of dirty pool. It has been said in the DVD commentary that Chan thought he shouldn’t be better skilled than the villain but have them overcome by hubris. A novel charming twist in a movie not expected to have many.

Perhaps everyone here, including the screenwriters Miles Millar and Alfred Gough who created Smallville and have two reportedly decent tv shows running: [The Shannara Chronicles,  Into The Badlandsshould get their due as well. Everyone showed up to do their job on this one and as a result we’re talking about it 13 years later. It was just reported this week that Jared Hess (Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, Masterminds) is set to helm a third installment ‘Shanghai Dawn’ since Hollywood can’t leave any trilogy unturned.


  • Aidan Gillen’s character motivation in this film as Lord Nelson Rathbone is quite literally the exact same as Lord Petyr Baelish’s on Game of Thrones. Maybe this is what got him the role.
  • Looking at the premiere photos on the film’s imdb page is a whose who of 2003
  • The film is one of the few uploaded on YouTube embedded in SD in its entirety below

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