Buena Vista has given Shanghai Knights an attractive anamorphic widescreen transfer in the film’s theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1. The film looks quite nice – as it should for a major release from a big time studio. However, there are some minor flaws that keep Shanghai Knights a few notches below some of the upper echelon transfers I’ve had the pleasure of viewing of late.
The image remained fairly sharp and detailed throughout the almost 2-hours of running time, although there was some slight grain noted in many of the darker backgrounds and low-lit scenes in the film. The master print seems to be in immaculate shape, as flakes and flecks never presented any problems for the viewer and the image was able to remain consistently clean from beginning to end. Colors and hues were pretty strong in the film, with red seemingly being the order of the day. Other colors came across just as strong and whether it was the dusky brown hues of the Old West, or the vividly colored palatial estates in China/England, Buena Vista took it all in stride and kept everything properly balanced and saturated. Fleshtones were warm and natural, with nicely rendered black levels that remained fairly strong throughout.
Edge enhancement was noted in the transfer from time to time, as were a couple of quick compression artifacts as well. As I noted before, grain was spotted in a few areas – especially during some of the darker scenes – and it caused the image to go ever-so-slightly soft. Even with the aforementioned flaws, you were never distracted from what was happening on the screen, as all of the flaws were of the non-distracting variety.
Not a bad transfer by any stretch, but Buena Vista has more impressive features in their DVD stable for sure. The transfer is fitting for the material and fans of Shanghai Knights will have a hard time finding much to complain about in Buena Vista’s efforts.
Shanghai Knights gets a rather generic and unassuming Dolby Digital 5.1 mix that can be engaging at times, but more often than not, remains firmly anchored in the front surrounds. As a consolation, there’s some nice separation found in the front channels, as effects always seem to start and end in their proper place within the somewhat limited soundstage.
Your rear surrounds will definitely get in on some of the action, but ultimately, it’s simply not enough to impress those of us who have been around the DVD block a few times. The majority of the time that the rears are noticeably used are when Randy Edelman’s fitting, albeit curious score kicks in. There was some reinforcement added during some of the more action-packed scenes, but it was rather unremarkable when pitted against others in its own genre. Dialogue was front, center, and easily understood throughout, as dynamics and fidelity were more than acceptable.
Buena Vista has also included a French Dolby Digital 5.1 mix, as well as English Closed Captions and Spanish subtitles.
There were a couple of Previews for The Recruit and Bringing Down The House seen right after you pop your DVD in, but these trailers cannot be accessed any other way. Buena Vista has added some nice supplemental material here, but unfortunately, it’s all tied up between two audio commentaries. While I appreciate the effort, I don’t really see Shanghai Knights as needing two commentaries.
The first is an Audio Commentary with director David Dobkin and the second is an Audio Commentary with writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar. Neither of the commentaries is really worthy of mention and your enjoyment of them will depend largely upon your enjoyment of the film itself. Call me crazy, but I don’t see how much dissection is needed for a film like Shanghai Knights and as you might imagine from my comments, neither commentary really did much for me. We get praise for the actors – especially Chan – and we hear a lot of dissection on the action we can clearly see on the screen. The writer’s commentary seemed to be a bit more engaging and lively, while Dobkin literally put me to sleep. Tread lightly unless you’re a hardcore fan of the film.
Fight Manual (9:02) and Action Overload (1:33) follow, with Manual being hosted by Jackie Chan and director David Dobkin and it breaks down the fight sequences seen in the film, as well as offers up a ton of praise for the actor and his work ethic. Action Overload is a worthless music video that’s comprised of action sequences from the film. This one’s a tosser and waste of your more than valuable time.
Next up, we have a few Deleted Scenes (“Waiting In The Rain”, “The Headless Knight”, “Clay On Rathbone’s Shoes”, “Waldorf Hall Argument”, “Outside Rathbone’s Castle”, “Stonehenge”, “Jail Cell”, “Full Library Fight”, “Full Madame Tussaud’s Fight”, “Full Tent & Barge Fight”, and “Full Interior Big Ben Fight”) that were actually quite enjoyable to watch and in total, ran for 28:08. We can select the scenes individually, or view them via Buena Vista’s handy –PLAY ALL- feature and each scene is presented in widescreen and Dolby Digital 2.0. The scenes could be hit-or-miss, but there were actually quite a few decent moments that didn’t make it into the film – many funnier that what actually did make it. Also, many of the scenes, as noted from their title, are extended fight sequences that were pared down for running length’s sake. There’s some fairly decent stuff here and fans of the film will be overjoyed with the almost 30-minutes of extra footage to be found here.
Finally, there’s a THX Optimizer under the “Set Up” heading and a worthless option that will encourages us to Register Your DVD. (Has anyone actually ever done this?)
Shanghai Knights was admittedly funny in parts, but it was funny in a very unremarkable and instantly forgettable way. It was a breezy way to blow a couple of hours, but not one of those films where you’re going to invite people over for and go, “Ohhhh! You have got to see Shanghai Knights! It’s hilarious!”
Buena Vista has given the DVD very respectable A/V treatment and for those of you looking for some senseless fun and a somewhat adequate weekend rental, look no further than Shanghai Knights. Hard to recommend for purchase outside of hardcore Jackie Chan or Owen Wilson fans however.