When Eddie Murphy decided to take the PG-rated route, the action film took a direct hit.
Then Chris Tucker came along.
Realizing that they could recapture some of that “48 Hours” magic while also capitalizing on America’s fascination with kung fu films, executives paired the fastest mouth in the West, Tucker, with the fastest hands in the East, Jackie Chan.
The effort, “Rush Hour,” made $33 million its opening weekend, just $2 million shy of its budget.
A new franchise was born.
Three years and a lot of expectations later, detective inspector Lee (Chan) and detective James Carter (Tucker) are back to wreck more havoc. This time starting in Hong Kong.
Hoping to get a little “moo shoo,” Carter has flown to China to visit Lee. However, instead of seeing the sights, he gets dragged along on Lee’s investigations, including his latest – a terrorist bomber’s attack on the U.S. embassy. Lee suspects the Triads, a notorious gang led by retired police officer Ricky Tan (John Lone). But when Tan ends up slain, it’s back to Los Angeles, then Las Vegas to follow the money trail, literally.
Although screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (“Speed 2: Cruise Control”) is new to “Rush Hour,” he never lets on. As with the first film, the jokes center on ethnic stereotypes with some musical references thrown in. For example, during an argument, Lee tells Carter that in China he’s Michael Jackson and Carter is Toto. Carter replies, that’s Tito; Toto’s what we had last night. Nathanson also makes full use of the “fish out of water” situation, such as when Carter attempts to communicate in Cantonese. Instead of instructing clubgoers to divide up by gender, he tells them to take out samurai swords and shave his buttocks.
Tucker gets most of the best lines and is the main reason to see this film. His rapid-fire delivery combined with his over-confident personality and wild expressions make him the perfect foil for disaster. He also does a spot-on impression of Michael Jackson, and demonstrates an alarming fashion sense.
Chan, who plays the straight man, also has some good moments, but his cause d’etre is mainly to deliver the punches, which he does with mucho gusto. However, those who have come to expect some dynamic feats from this kung fu master will be a little disappointed. Although he accomplishes some inspiring moments with a casino teller’s window, the side of a truck and a bamboo building shell, the action sequences aren’t quite as spectacular as they could have been.
The reason for this might simply be Chan’s age. At 47 and with 90-plus films behind him, Chan, who performs his own stunts, already has broken his nose numerous times, his ankle once, most of his fingers, hand, both cheekbones and his skull. Who wants to be in a body cast at 50? In fact, Chan said in a recent interview he might even start using a stunt double. (Seems a bit strange when his acrobatics, not his acting, fill theater seats.)
Or perhaps Chan hasn’t diminished his prowess after all, but it’s Jet Li’s fantastic choreographed sequences that are to blame. Perhaps with a glut of karate high wire acts, our expectations have simply been raised.
Whatever the reason, “Rush Hour 2″ still has enough comedy going for it as well as some enthusiastic supporting players.
Ziyi Zhang furthers her success by playing Hu Li, the gang leader with no sign of a conscious. As in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” she accomplishes some phenomenal sword play and limber kicks.
The once-illustrious John Lone, who has been noticeably absent from celluloid for about seven years, shows his slimy side. As a fan dating back to “The Iceman” in 1984, I was ecstatic to see this “Last Emperor” make a comeback.
Brett Ratner, who also directed “Rush Hour,” pays homage to the “whatever works” formula: Keep the jokes and action sequences moving, find every excuse to use a scantily clad woman the men can ogle and make sure both leads mug it up for the paying public.
If you’re expecting something different with this sequel, youre not going to find it. Hence the reason the tag line says, “Get ready for a second rush!” instead of “Lee and Carter completely change direction and serve up tears and philosophical musings while dining at a French cabaret.”
Finally, as with the majority of Chan’s films, outtakes, usually more hilarious than anything the screenwriter came up with, are featured as the credits role. This time around, the final outtake contains a rather prophetic moment. After watching a bad guy go splat, Tucker remarks that the now-deceased won’t make it into “Rush Hour 3.”
Both he and Chan erupt into laughter and so do we. But only because we all know he’s right.
This won’t even be close to the final “Rush Hour.”
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