Jackie Chan's Hollywood career gets a second break with Rush Hour, and this time audiences should be far more receptive to his material.
The plot has more substance than most Jackie Chan movies: James Carter (Chris Tucker) is an LAPD detective with a penchant for dancing Michael Jackson-style while blowing up blocks of buildings. This gets him into trouble with his sergeant who, at the request of the FBI, assigns him to a case where he ends up being a nurse maid to Lee (Chan), a Chinese detective who has just broken up a huge smuggling ring in Hong Kong. The FBI want Carter and Lee to not interfere with the investigation of the kidnapping of the Chinese Consul's daughter, but Lee and Carter do do anyway, in their own charismatic manner. In the end, the two triumph when the FBI fail.
The humour in Rush Hour arises not so much in terms of actions and the stunts, but really in terms of the one-liners. In fact, in stark contrast to most of Chan's movies, there's no stunt that exceptionally defines this movie. Fortunately, most of the one-liners work very well. The humourous tension between a Black and Chinese cop is exploited well. Though some of the lines could've been executed better, and some of the scenes could've used more editing, the movie had me laughing out loud quite loud quite often. Chan is charismatic as usual; Chris Tucker, barring a few moments, is tolerable. The out takes, which are also present here, are great, and are more suited to the vocal style of the movie than what is usually seen in Jackie Chan movies which generally show failed stunts.
I thought Rush Hour was an excellent film, but Rush Hour 2 is one of those rare cases where the sequel is possibly better than the original.
The formula is the same, except that there's more action from Jackie Chan who never seems to grow old, and more loud mouthing from Chris Tucker who never seems to shut up. The racial jokes are reversed (this time, Chan gets to say "never touch a Chinaman's CD player"). Throw in the charismatic Zhang Ziyi as one of the chief villainess' and you have a summer action flick that's hard to beat.
The movie begins with an explosion at the American Embassy in Hong Kong just as LAPD detective Carter (Tucker) is berating his Hong Kong counterpart Lee (Chan) for not showing him a good time. The mastermind behind it is Ricky Tan (John Lone) who is involved in a massive counterfeiting scheme. The two follow him to Los Angeles and then to Las Vegas where they uncover and eventually thwart his scheme (what did you expect?).
There are some classic sequences in this movie, including one of Tucker singing Don't Stop Till You Get Enough and one where Tucker gambles in the name of all the Black people who've fought against discrimination (and continues to win). The scene where Chan and Tucker are both invited to dress up in silk is hilarious. Chan grooving to Puff Daddy's I'll be Missing You is also funny. The audience was cracking up the most at these scenes.
Chan's stunts are amazing and this movie would be worth watching for that reason alone. While they don't match the level seen in a movie like The Accidental Spy (his other release this year, though I've not seen it released in this country), the movie as a whole has better substance than ones which only focus on his stunts. Tucker's motor mouth is in overdrive here and he spews his well-written lines with great energy. Zhang Ziyi is frighteningly convincing as Tan's second-in-command, Hu Li. Her viciousness in dealing with Tucker is disturbing. Roselyn Sanchez is attractive as an undercover U.S. Treasury Agent Isabella Molina, though her presence in the film is questionable. John Lone makes for a smooth and suave villain. I didn't expect such a great cast in a film like this, which definitely adds to the experience.
It's clear that a lot of the success of the Rush Hour films has to do with their stereotyping of different races (Black and Chinese, obviously, with random pot shots at Whites thrown in for good measure). Watching the film, I couldn't help but think of Chris Tucker's antics in the context of what happens in the film Bamboozled, where the message is that all this entertainment in the form of excessive stereotyping is nothing more than another form of racial exploitation.
Again, the out-takes at the end are hilarious, particularly the ironic one about the use of cell phones during a movie. I highly recommend checking Rush Hour 2 on the big screen.