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Rush Hour

movie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Rush Hour

Starring: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker
Director: Brett Ratner
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 94 Minutes
Release Date: September 1998
Genres: Action, Comedy, Martial Arts

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

In the ecumenical spirit, police dramas traditionally pair up a black cop and a white cop, a match best exploited in the "Lethal Weapon" series. In scripters Jim Kouf and Ross LaManna's take on the pairing of distinct ethnicities and personalities, Jackie Chan is braced with Chris Tucker. As Lee and Carter, two such talents could not be more disparate. Per the usual formula, the duo rub each other the wrong way at first and gradually come to depend on each other and to share a genuine measure of affection. To director Brett Ratner's credit, their growing affection is believable. No matter that Lee (Jackie Chan) is modest and altruistic while Carter (Chris Tucker) is egocentric and motor- mouthed. Each prefers working alone to operating with a partner. Their very differences open both up to new experiences that enrich their lives. Lee, who is from Hong Kong, will teach his reluctant partner something about Chinese food and martial arts; in return, Carter will have Lee speaking about his crib and his Hong Kong hood and singing rap with abandon.

Nothing is less than lighthearted in this otherwise routine action film which features moderately witty dialogue, a hurricane of bullets, some nifty explosions, and super stunts which are noteworthy particularly because Jackie Chan continues to do his own at the age of 44. "Rush Hour" shows how Lee and Carter get into each other's hair, irritate the FBI and the LAPD, and rankle bad guys Juntao and a British collector, Griffin (Tom Wilkinson).

The story begins in Hong Kong in the days before the British bow out of their crown colony. Detective Lee singlehandedly crushes a smuggling operation but the leaders successfully run to the United States where they abduct the daughter of the Chinese consul in Los Angeles. Consul Han (Tzi Ma), a wealthy individual who is debating whether to meet the kidnappers' demand for a cool $50 million, wants his family friend, Detective Lee, to pursue the case. The FBI and the LAPD have other plans. To distract Lee, they commission screw-up cop James Carter to be his partner, in effect, to keep Lee out of the investigation. Seething under this boondoggle, Carter nonetheless takes on the chore while Lee does what he can to get away from his unwanted tour guide.

While Chris Tucker cannot match his best role--as a fugitive and hustler in Brett Ratner's "Money Talks"--he is reliably comical while delivering an endless stream of patter that would delight operetta lyricist W.S. Gilbert. Even when speaking slowly he can evoke laughs from the audience, as when he meets Lee and loudly and carefully asks him whether Lee speaks English: "'m...saying...?" he implores, his huge, expressive eyes flashing with incomprehension. This movie, though, belongs to Jackie Chan, who has just published an autobiography "I am Jackie Chan" in English, surely not the language in which he is most at home. In a Harold Lloyd- style stunt on a double-decker tour bus which he is compelled to take under Carter's watchful gaze, he suddenly leaps up and holds onto a "to Hollywood" directional sign overhead, somersaults into a city bus and dances his way into a taxi in a series of gestures that would impress Martha Graham. When he attacks the gangsters in the pool hall using the cue as a weapon and his powerful legs as a missile, his actions look more authentic than all those phony martial arts movies that rely on the eyes of the editors more than on the appendages of the heroes. The high point of Chan's acrobatics occurs near the conclusion as he loses his grip on a beam in a conventional hall atrium while his partner saves his life by extending a silk streamer to break the fall.

There will always be martial arts movies. "Rush Hour" signals this by underscoring the role of eleven-year-old Soo Yung (Julia Hsu) as the consul's daughter and prize student of detective Lee, who during captivity is anything but passive. Though she fails to gouge out eyes as her master has taught her to do, she is a persuasive young woman who pulls her weight in making "Rush Hour" as whimsical as it is routine.

As with other Jackie Chan movies one of the best parts is the outtakes which play along with the final credits in which the lead actors deprecatingly show the audience the bloopers--the missed stunts, the failed dialogue. When Chris Tucker fails in his intial efforts to say sheh-sheh (thank you) to the hostess from his first-class seat on a United Airlines flight, you've got to appreciate Mr. Chan's surprising skill with the English language, which he tackles with the dexterity of a seventh-degree black belt. But then, Jackie did not come by his abilities easily. As a kid he spent ten years in physically demanding and abusive training for the Peking Opera, which included mime, acrobatics, and martial arts, after which he got work as a child actor in more than twenty films. With that sort of history, he should be doing his high kicks well into his sixties. Let's hope so.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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