_Rush_Hour_2_ is a textbook case of commerce over art, of retreading
over reinvention. Yet there is something to be said about having a second try
at something that didn't quite work the time out, for derivative and disposable
as it is, this latest go-round with mismatched buddy cops Jackie Chan and Chris
Tucker is a more satisfying light entertainment.
The original _Rush_Hour_ certainly had its moments, but it had one
central failing: the refusal to let Jackie be Jackie; when the world-famous
martial arts superstar's biggest showpiece in the film is not a fight scene but
a simple slide down a banner, something is clearly amiss. What fights there
were lacked the creative flavor of his Hong Kong works--making the fact that the
film was Chan's first true stateside blockbuster all the more unfortunate.
The first big showpiece in _Rush_Hour_2_ shows the situation being
remedied, with Chan's Inspector Lee chasing some baddies while weaving through a
bamboo scaffold. Later scenes show an even stronger feel for Chan's style, with
the fights featuring his trademark "everything and the kitchen sink" way of
using anything within arm's reach as a weapon. This being an American (read:
sanitized) production, the action set pieces don't come close to the audacity of
his HK films, but coming after the tepid displays in the original _Rush_Hour_,
they get the job done well enough.
What of the plot? Returning director Brett Ratner and writer Jeff
Nathanson don't offer much of an answer. The film begins just days after the
end of the first, with Lee and LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker) in Hong
Kong. Carter just wants a relaxing vacation, but naturally that isn't in the
cards as Lee gets him entangled in some not-terribly-interesting business
involving Triad gangs. Disappointingly, _Rush_Hour_2_ doesn't make much of the
inverse fish-out-of-water scenario it begins on, for before long the duo's
investigation leads them back to U.S. soil--first L.A., then Las Vegas.
Chan and Tucker's off-kilter chemistry is even more playfully amusing
here, with Chan actually getting the opportunity to deliver some laugh lines
this time. Of course, the brunt of the comedic burden is carried by Tucker, and
while arguments that he is too loud even by his own standards do hold water
(even if he doesn't come close to what is heretofore his most shrill and
overdone work--his grating performance in Luc Besson's _The_Fifth_Element_), his
timing and ease with a wisecrack deliver the goods.
The lack of a strong plot means a shortchanging of those playing the
villainous element, particularly _Crouching_Tiger,_Hidden_Dragon_ star Zhang
Ziyi. It goes without saying that her role here isn't nearly as demanding as
that of Jen Yu, and hence she is more than up to the diminished task here: look
hot in black leather and kick some ass. Granted, she is more effectively used
than I had initially feared (I was thinking all of her scenes were those in the
trailer), but it is a let down to see that her acting chops don't get much of a
But, in all fairness, do anyone's ever get a workout in a Ratner film?
After all, the most anyone can hope for when seeing his name attached to a film
is a diverting enough slab of slick Hollywood hackwork--and, indeed,
_Rush_Hour_2_ is that. Chan does his thing; Tucker does his, and everyone who
buys a ticket gets exactly what they paid to see--which is more than can be said
of a number of other popcorn entertainments this summer.