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Blu-ray Review: Rush Hour

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The buddy cop flick isn’t exactly a new sub-genre of film in 2010.  Throw a grizzled, tough-as-nails veteran in the same squad car as a wide-eyed rookie, add some laughs and a criminal plot, and you have yourself a film.  The genre isn’t exactly made diverse by changing the types of cops you’re putting together, but simply altering the stereotype cops does allow for a new movie to be made.  The genre wasn’t even new in 1998 when the first Rush Hour hit theaters.  But, new or not, the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker buddy cop film proved that you don’t have be hugely different to be hugely successful.

It is true that the film is somewhat different from the majority of buddy cop flicks, but it certainly fits into the general mold – two cops with different tactics and attitudes make an unlikely pairing but manage to succeed in the end.  In this case, the two cops are both minorities, which is certainly against the norm in the genre.  The cops are, in fact, from opposite sides of the Pacific.  Jackie Chan plays Detective Inspector Lee of Hong Kong while Chris Tucker is Detective James Carter of the LAPD. 

The story is very much placed at the tail end of the 20th Century as it deals, in part, with the British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese.  A hidden criminal mastermind, Juntao, is forced out of Hong Kong as the handover is taking place, but follows one of the men who forced him out, Consul Solon Han (Tzi Ma), to Los Angeles, where Juntao has his men kidnap the Consul’s daughter.  When Consul Han asks the FBI to allow his man, Lee, in on the investigation, the FBI is hesitant.  They view any outsider as an unneeded distraction and consequently stick Lee with Carter, telling Carter to keep him away from the case.

Lee and Carter, as you probably have surmised, don’t stay out of the way.  Instead, they cause a ridiculous amount of trouble for everyone and yet still, magically, crack the case and get the bad guy.  The entire thing may be obvious from the beginning, but Chris Tucker’s wisecracking and Jackie Chan’s martial arts manage to win the day, creating a film that may not break new ground, but makes the old ground great to tread once more. 

It is true that after a while, Chris Tucker’s over-the-top foolishness can get somewhat annoying, but Brett Ratner’s direction balances out Tucker with Chan’s comedic style of martial arts.  One can, in fact, imagine many an actor who could have taken on Tucker’s role without the film losing anything, but Chan is indispensable.  That is not to say that Tucker isn’t funny and doesn’t handle his role well, just that he–much more than Chan–feels as though he could be replaced.  Jackie Chan fans will note that there are better films which showcase the actor, films solely devoted to him, but with having to split screen time here, he still manages to do quite well   And, even if he does get annoying at times, Tucker is a funny man and has some pretty good moments in the film.

Rush Hour also sports a good supporting cast.  Tom Wilkinson, Chris Penn, Ken Leung, Elizabeth Pena, and Philip Baker Hall all appear in the film.  The film belongs to Tucker and Chan, but they have been surrounded by good people.

While I will not delve greatly into it, it must be noted that despite the film putting two minority characters front and center, it is not necessarily as forward-thinking as it may appear.  Both Chan and Tucker’s characters fall squarely within stereotypical boundaries and a good argument can be made that rather than the film being progressive for using the actors, the way they are depicted makes it a far more regressive film than it would initially appear.

It must also be said that this particular Blu-ray release is not the greatest.  The visuals are distinctly unimpressive, with colors sometimes appearing rich and full and other times somewhat washed-out.  Dark scenes look relatively poor, with too much noise that creates almost a flicker in some shots.  There are some close-ups which look like they got better treatment than others, but it is not a film that you’ll want to use to highlight the brilliance of Blu-ray. There is also the occasional scratch.  The sound is a somewhat better affair, with the DTS-HD Master Audio track pounding out bass and the surrounds putting you in the center of the action.   Everything is crisp and clear, and it’s just a little unfortunate that the visuals aren’t as good.  It almost makes it feel as though the release wasn’t given the studio’s best efforts.

That feeling is enhanced when one examines the bonus features.  They are not bad, they are all simply recycled from previous DVD releases.  There is a commentary with Brett Ratner as well as an isolated score commentary with the film’s composer, Lalo Schifrin.  Two music videos are also included as well as deleted scenes, a student film made by Ratner, and a pretty good behind-the-scenes featurette.  This last item actually does a better than average job delving into what went into the film’s production and how the pieces came together.  Like the film itself, it may not be new, but it is interesting.

What Rush Hour proves is that reinventing the wheel isn’t necessary to create a successful and enjoyable film.  Rush Hour succeeds because the leads are, more often than not, enjoyable and Chan’s martial arts’ skills are always a wonder to behold.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.