When the first Rush Hour landed back in 1998, Jackie Chan was riding high on his recent explosion of popularity in mainstream America. Recent outings such as Rumble in the Bronx, Supercop, and First Strike were proving to be hits and his stock in the West was rising. It only made sense to put him in an English language film to capitalize on that newfound fame.
At the same time, Chris Tucker's stock was rising with turns in Friday, Fifth Element, and Money Talks. It seemed like the perfect idea to pair up a guy who does not speak English all that well with a guy who never shuts up. The result was a fun buddy comedy which delivered big laughs and big action. Three years later, director Brett Ratner brought the duo back in an equally good sequel. Now, it has been six years since we last saw them together, and six years since Tucker has been on the big screen. This time the result is much less satisfying.
As Rush Hour 3 starts, James Carter (Tucker) is doing his duty as an LAPD officer by directing traffic. Of course, he is doing this in his own style, singing and dancing until he inadvertently causes an accident. At the same time, Inspector Lee (Chan) is accompanying Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma, reprising his role from the first Rush Hour) to World Criminal Court. It is a big day for Han, as he plans to reveal the leader of the Triads. Before he is able to make the announcement, he is he victim of an attempted assassination. This leads to a chase in old school Jackie style, which is as unlikely as it is exciting.
The chase takes him right by the intersection where Carter is screwing things up. Upon seeing Lee race by, Tucker joins the chase, thereby reuniting our buddy cops and allowing the "plot" to begin in earnest. The two visit Han in the hospital and learn of a secret letter that Han sent his daughter, Soo Yung (Jingchu Chang). In typical buddy comedy fashion, Carter and Lee team up (despite Carter being told no) to find the letter and catch the assassin.
The chase leads them to Paris, where they are greeted by Roman Polanski playing a rather thorough police inspector. After that discomfort, they team up with an America-hating cabbie as they search Paris for the Triads and their mysterious leader. Along the way Tucker lets loose a non-stop barrage of one liners and quips, while Lee just roles his eyes and does most of the required fighting.
Rush Hour 3 did not really inspire me, despite looking forward to it. Without even discussing the content, I believe that they waited too long to make it. Six years is a long gap between sequels, and this franchise's continued popularity is suspect at best. On top of that, Tucker's star is nowhere near shining as bright as it was back in 1998. Since that time he has only made two films, and both have Rush Hour in the title. By the same token, Chan hasn't had a bona fide hit since 2003's Shanghai Knights. I guess those could also be good reasons to go back to the well one more time in the hopes of bringing them both a hit.
As I sat in the theater, I found a movie that was not downright bad, but there was a lot not to like about it. The story is simple, and never really explodes into anything terribly involving. The plot serves as a mere device to move our buddies into a variety of situations leading to flying quips and fists. Chris Tucker is more annoying here than he was as the motor-mouthed DJ Ruby Rod in The Fifth Element. He is always letting his mouth fly off the handle with witty one liners that aren't nearly as witty as they should be. Much of the comedy comes across as worn out and tired, as if the jokes were being recycled from the first two films. Jackie Chan still has a lot of charm and charisma, despite playing the same character in virtually every movie he's in. Even Chan often times has this worn look, like he is wondering why he agreed to do this.
With all of the negatives, it is a wonder it is as solid as it is — well, as solid as a two star movie is going to be. There is still some chemistry between the two, and the worn formula still works. There is nothing that will make you walk away saying the movie was terrible. However, you may walk away thinking about how the first two were better, and how loud Tucker is.
Bottom line. Slightly entertaining later summer popcorn muncher. It is what it is, and it can't be any more. Rush Hour 3 is broad action/comedy made to draw upon a wide cross section of demographics. On that strength, it works. But you know, trying to be everything for everyone is not the best way to go.Powered by Sidelines