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Rush Hour 2

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Rush Hour 2

Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker
Director: Brett Ratner
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: August 2001
Genres: Action, Comedy

*Also starring: Harris Yulin, Zhang Ziyi, Don Cheadle, Alan King, John Lone, Roselyn Sanchez

Review by Edward Johnson-Ott
2 stars out of 4

In 1998, the police buddy-movie "Rush Hour" clicked with audiences due to the inspired pairing of lovable action star Jackie Chan and motormouth comic Chris Tucker. My review of the original stated "Tucker slightly tones down his hyperactive, helium-voiced, in-your-face chatter, making his character humorously abrasive rather than insufferable. He's actually quite fun to watch as he talks his way in and out of trouble, periodically breaking into a bizarre urban-Egyptian form of dance and using leering effeminate movements to challenge other males. I have no idea how Tucker developed his alien-on-amphetamines shtick, but he's certainly one of a kind."

The bad news about "Rush Hour 2" is that Tucker doesn't tone down anything this time around. The good news is that Jackie Chan's performance is so strong that he makes up for the excesses of his partner. To be fair, I should note that Tucker does have some effective scenes. My favorite (SPOILER ALERT: The rest of this paragraph reveals two jokes) takes place at a Las Vegas casino, where he attempts to draw the attention of security by breaking into a strident rant accusing the facility of racism. During his tirade, he announces that black people have suffered the abuse of whites "for 362 years," which I believe marks the first time anyone has ever pinned it down so precisely. Seconds later, when a defensive white official denies that the casino is racist, citing the fact that Lionel Richie is playing there, Tucker's character shouts, "Lionel Richie? Lionel Richie hasn't been black since he left the Commodores!"

If only the rest of his work was so consistently funny. There were times when I wanted to climb into the screen, slap Tucker silly and force-feed him Ritalin. Thank Goodness for the soothing presence of Jackie Chan, who gets more charming with each passing year. His athletic abilities are as strong as ever and his skill as an actor keeps improving, as does his command of English.

The sequel opens in Hong Kong, where LAPD detective Carter (Tucker) is vacationing with Chief Inspector Lee (Chan). Carter just wants to visit with his friend and sample the exotic pleasures of the city, especially the women. But the guys soon get caught up in a huge case. An explosion at the American Embassy kills two U.S. Customs agents that had been investigating smugglers trafficking in "superbills," extremely high-grade counterfeit American $100 bills.

The main suspect in the bombing is Ricky Tan (John Lone), the suave leader of the deadliest gang in China. Lee approaches the case with a fervor, because Tan was once a Hong Kong police officer partnered with Lee's father and was directly involved in his death. Lee and Carter's pursuit of Tan leads them through a variety of colorful locations, including a karaoke bar, a massage parlor and a yacht party on the waters of Victoria Harbor. The massage parlor visit, by the way, features a beautifully choreographed fight scene that ends with the lawmen unceremoniously thrown bare-assed onto a busy city street.

The duo also must deal with Tan's right hand woman, Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), mega-rich hotel and casino owner Steven Reign (comedian Alan King) and Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), who is either an undercover U.S. agent or a turncoat aligned with Tan. The chase takes Lee and Carter back to Los Angeles briefly and then on to Las Vegas for the climax of the film, set on the Strip at the opening of the Red Dragon Hotel and Casino.

At one point in the proceedings, I jotted "too much plot" in my notebook, but the rousing finale suitably deals with all the elements and characters raised in the story. And while Jackie Chan tosses off lots of one-liners, he plays Lee's relationship with the man that killed his father completely serious, which makes the plot seem like more than just an excuse for jokes and stunts.

As with the vast majority of sequels, "Rush Hour 2" isn't as good as the original, but it offers more than enough entertainment to warrant your time and money (the riotous outtakes that run over the closing credits are funnier than most of the films passing as comedies this summer). If the series continues, and it certainly appears on track to do so, I hope future installments focus more on the camaraderie between the leads and less on their bickering. There are plenty of bureaucrats and bad guys ripe for them to belittle, let the boys play nice with each other. Other suggestions: Write stories that get both Lee and Carter emotionally involved in the case, keep the jokes and imaginative fight scenes coming and, for Pete's Sake, tone down Chris Tucker. Jackie Chan has proven his ability to be humorous and serious in the same film, give Tucker the opportunity to do the same.

Copyright 2001 Edward Johnson-Ott

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