Rush Hour 2
Screenplay : Jeff Nathanson
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 2001
Stars : Jackie Chan (Detective Inspector Lee), Chris Tucker (Det. James Carter), Roselyn Sanchez (Isabella Molina), John Lone (Ricky Tan), Ziyi Zhang (Hu Li), Alan King (Steven Reign), Chris Penn (Clive)
Rumor has it there were severe script problems with Rush Hour 2 and most of the movie was improvised during production. It shows. Rush Hour 2 reunites the unlikely but fruitful comic pairing of Asian martial-arts superstar Jackie Chan and African-American comedian Chris Tucker from the 1998 original, which turned into a surprise smash that earned $250 million worldwide. Unfortunately, the sequel tries to coast along on the good will created by the first movie without adding a single dash of originality, creativity, or daring. There are isolated moments of humor, but overall it's a sloppy piece of work, poorly underwritten and badly directed by Brett Ratner, who also helmed the original.
This time around, LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker) is in Hong Kong, supposedly on vacation with Chan's Detective Inspector Lee. Carter, being the oversexed loudmouth that he is, is only interested in having a good time (he especially wants to get some moo shoo with the Asian women), but Lee is busy working a case involving a bombing of the U.S. embassy. All fingers point to Ricky Tan (James Lone), a crime boss who knew Lee's father and may have had a hand in his death (that the movie works overtime to get this Freudian sub-drama to work is testament to its general desperation).
Lee and Carter eventually wind up investigating an overseas counterfeiting scheme that involves not only Tan and his second-in-command, a vicious female assassin played by Ziyi Zhang, who was so memorable in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000), but also to Steven Reign (Alan King), a Las Vegas hotel entrepreneur. The plot is largely irrelevant, though, as it is simply an excuse to drag Chan and Tucker around various locations in Hong Kong, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas and get them into trouble. The screenplay--which is credited to Jeff Nathanson (Speed 2), although it endured heavy rewrites from many others--doesn't even attempt to disguise who is behind the crimes and thus generate any real suspense. There is one strange moment when one of the criminals apparently kills another, only to have the supposedly deceased reappear at the end of the movie, with no real explanation as to why the death was faked other than to create a red herring in the narrative.
Once again, Chan choreographed his own fight sequences, but, at 47 years of age, he is beginning to slow down considerably, and his moves simply don't have the eye-popping speed, intricacy, and crispness that used to be his defining signature. It doesn't help that Ratner's ability to direct action sequences has not improved since the first movie and that Chan had to adapt his choreography to Tucker, who is much better at talking than he is at martial arts (he can fake it well enough, but his limitations are obvious).
For his part, Tucker does everything he can to earn the $20 million he was paid for the role. He jabbers incessantly in his high-pitched jive rhythms, and because he talks more than all the other characters in the movie put together, it's not surprising that he gets all the best jokes. Like its predecessor, Rush Hour 2 happily foregoes any notions of political correctness in its humor, most of which is based on the fact that Tucker is black and Chan is Asian. This leads to extended and often tiring jokes involving race and ethnicity, such as the scene where Tucker creates a diversion in a casino by accusing the craps dealer of being racist. The scene is saved only by the fact that it turns into a clever action sequence in which Chan has a bomb taped inside his mouth and is trying to grab the detonator among the panicked casino crowd, whose feet keep inadvertently kicking it around like a hockey puck (the whole scene seems to be visually inspired by the opening sequence of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, in which Harrison Ford is trying to find a vial of poison antidote among a panicked crowd in a nightclub).
The same cannot be said for the rest of the movie, which simply doesn't display enough kick to make it worthwhile. The novelty of seeing such opposites as Tucker and Chan paired together had worn off by the end of Rush Hour three years ago, and unlike the Lethal Weapon series it so desperately wants to ape, Rush Hour 2 doesn't take their relationship any farther; it's stuck in overt ethnic-humor mode with only mild overtones of genuine friendship and understanding. But, if anything, Rush Hour 2 is worth sitting through to the end so you can see the outtakes during the closing credits, which are funnier than anything else in the movie. When Tucker watches a character flub a stunt and off-handedly remarks, "He won't be back for Rush Hour 3," one can only hope that goes for everyone else involved, as well.
Copyright © 2001 James Kendrick