Rush Hour 2 follows so closely in the footsteps of its hugely successful predecessor that an actual review is practically unnecessary. People who saw the first film — a cop buddy flick featuring Jackie Chan as Inspector Lee of the Hong Kong police and Chris Tucker as Detective Carter of the LAPD — probably have a pretty good idea whether or not they are likely to enjoy the second one. People who didn’t see the first one probably aren’t all that interested in the second. And, if they are, they can always read a review of the first one: By and large, the same draws, and drawbacks, apply.
Once again there’s an East-meets-West odd-couple juxtaposition of straight man Lee with outrageous motormouth Carter. This time Carter gets to be the Fish Out of Water for awhile, as the boys take their act to Lee’s native Hong Kong for about half the movie before Carter’s criminological theorizing ("Follow the rich white man") leads them back to L.A. (New York is next up, according to the movie’s last scene).
So which is better, One or Two? Any answer would be too individual to matter much. Instead, I’ll content myself with merely listing some of what works and what doesn’t in this sequel. You can do your own math.
However, after the box-office killing of the first movie (and the success of Jackie’s next buddy film, Shanghai Noon), I did think Rush Hour 2 would give Jackie more room to do what he does best. Well, it does, but only marginally. The bamboo scaffolding sequence, in particular, could have been a lot better if only Jackie had had more time. This seems to be the fault of returning director Ratner, who apparently just prefers shorter action sequences.
Worse, Ratner still doesn’t know how to shoot Jackie: The same close-ups and fast edits that marred Rush Hour are back in Rush Hour 2. Obviously, Ratner should not be allowed to direct Rush Hour 3, or any other Jackie Chan film.
Later, the two spend some time ogling one of the two main female characters (Roselyn Sanchez) — first through a telescopic lens as she strips to her skivvies in front of a hotel window, then up close as they crash into her hotel room, at which point she dons a silk bathrobe but won’t stay covered up. (Actually, Carter does most of the ogling once they get to the hotel room; Lee musters the willpower to force himself to stare in some random direction.) The movie even makes a point of a tattoo on Sanchez’s body, then never mentions it again.
By the time we got to the big casino shindig with dangling showgirls shimmying on ropes twenty-five feet off the floor, I was starting to feel like Jackie in the hotel room with Sanchez, looking for a random direction to stare in. Jackie has said in the past that he avoids putting sex in his movies because he wants them to be accessible to younger viewers. He should reflect that a movie can be too trashy for kids even if no one actually ends up in bed.
Best not to think about it.
Rush Hour 3 is a half-hour of brilliance, preceded by an hour of dreck. That’s a roughly comparable dreck-to-brilliance ratio to the first two Rush Hour movies, I guess, and par for the course for Jackie Chan’s Hollywood films (and a fair number of his Asian ones). It’s just that the earlier Rush Hour movies are hit-and-miss throughout, whereas Rush Hour 3 is basically non-stop missing for an hour, saving all its hits for the end.
After fifteen years of trying, Jackie Chan finally broke into the U.S. market with Rumble in the Bronx and Jackie Chan’s First Strike; but it wasn’t until Rush Hour that he really connected with mainstream American audiences.
Copyright © 2000– Steven D. Greydanus. All rights reserved.