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Rush Hour 2

The pairing of martial arts legend Jackie Chan and fast-talking comic Chris Tucker in the original Rush Hour was not, as it might seem now, an obvious choice. The movie's first studio thought the $20 million budget was
excessive, given Chan's paltry drawing power in the States and Tucker's relative obscurity, and sold the picture to New Line Cinema. The action comedy, fueled by its stars' charisma and camaraderie, went on to become a
monster hit.

Strangely, neither Chan nor Tucker have been able to capitalize on Rush Hour's success. Chan appeared in last year's Shanghai Noon, though it did only moderate business at the box office, and Tucker hasn't made a single film in the meantime. So it's no surprise that the two have re-teamed for the inevitable sequel. What is a huge surprise is that the movie is actually pretty good.

Rush Hour 2 begins in Hong Kong where James Carter (Tucker) is on vacation, driving around with his good friend Lee (Chan). But when the American embassy is bombed, Lee goes back on the job with a reluctant Carter in tow.

The investigation revolves around Ricky Tan (John Lone, The Last Emperor) and his mysterious assistant Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi, Crouching Tiger). When Tan is murdered, however, Carter and Lee follow Hu Li to Los Angeles and then  to Las Vegas. Along the way, they meet Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), an undercover U.S. agent who might also be helping Hu Li.

Of course, the plot in this sort of movie is merely a skeleton for various action set pieces and comic interludes. Thankfully, most of the ones in Rush Hour 2 are pretty good. I could do without Chris Tucker's ugly
American routine in a Hong Kong karaoke bar, but the ensuing fight on a six-story scaffold is impressive. Even better is the next scene, a battle-royale-type rumble inside a massage parlor. With an effective use of
hassocks and chairs, along with Chan and Tucker's comic instincts, this entertaining sequence is one of the highlights of the film.

After last year's Shanghai Noon, I assumed that Jackie Chan's days of spectacular stunts were largely over. With the exception of a horseshoe on a string, none of the fight scenes in Noon were particularly memorable, and a couple actually seemed to make use of a stunt double, something Chan is famous for not using. I'm happy to report that Jackie Chan is back on his game. Though you've probably already seen the commercial in which he runs alongside a semi-trailer, it's cool to watch it on the big screen. And his lightning-fast hands and feet still have the grace he showed in Legend of Drunken Master.

That's not to say Rush Hour 2 will compare with the martial arts spectacular that is Jet Li, but then that was over Jackie Chan's game. Instead Rush Hour 2, like the 1998 original, makes full use of Chan's comic talents and particularly his role as a gifted straight man. There's a great moment when Chan starts singing along with a Puff Daddy song that will have you in stitches.

Chan is also a nice antidote to Chris Tucker's manic antics. The Internet Movie Database includes all of an actor's film and television appearances. Chris Tucker's listing is amusing in that in all four of his television roles, he played himself. In other words, his motor-mouth screen persona is so entrenched he's been typecast before the age of 30. I'll admit I've never been a big fan of Tucker's schtick, but once his character leaves Hong Kong, he settles down and has some funny lines. There's a great sequence in which he and Chan are spying on a voluptuous woman, and they keep fighting over the telescope.

The film's two female characters don't have much to do but stand around and look beautiful. At that, they succeed. The same cannot be said of their cat-fight martial arts battle in the film's finale.

Director Brett Ratner (Family Man) has the good sense to keep everything moving along at a rapid pace. The couple times the movie does slow down for a big emotional moment are painful in the worst way, but fortunately they're relatively rare. And the movie ignores the current trend of having multiple endings and instead opts for a simple but satisfying conclusion. Even more satisfying is the film's hilarious blooper reel, one of the best clips of outtakes since A Bug's Life.

Rush Hour 2 is mindless summer fare that actually delivers the goods. No one's going to mistake it for an Oscar winner, but it's an entertaining  flick that does what it sets out to do. Who knows? I might actually be
looking forward to Rush Hour 3. 

J. Robert Parks  7/30/2001


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