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'Rush Hour 2'

No Chan do: Jackie's moves can't carry 'Rush Hour 2'

Friday, August 03, 2001

By Barry Paris, Post-Gazette Movie Critic

Bless me, fathers and mothers, for I have sinned -- by failing to see "Rush Hour" No. 1 (1998). In theory, that puts me at a disadvantage for the explication of "Rush Hour II" to your maximum edification. In practice, it mattereth not. Nor do the plot, the characters, the direction, the mise-en-scene, the costume designs or the key grip. All that mattereth is the fact it's a Jackie Chan kick-'em-&-lick-'em romp.


RATING: R for language, violence and mild sexual scenes

STARRING: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Roselyn Sanchez

DIRECTOR: Brett Ratner

Critic's call: 1 1/2 stars


We like Jackie Chan -- his elan, eclat, chutzpah, et al foreign synonyms for "stylish audacity." But we dislike -- no, we actively detest -- his wisecrackin' comic sidekick Chris Tucker, who is enormously uncomical throughout (and ruinous to) the movie.

The obligatory synopsis, as fast as I can do it: Chan is Inspector Lee of Hong Kong. Tucker is his old LAPD pal Carter, called in to assist. Two U.S. Secret Service agents have been killed, presumably by the bad Triad mob, headed by the very bad Ricky Tan (played by the very very bad actor John Lone). It all has to do with a zillion-dollar counterfeiting ring. Mysterious Isabella (Roselyn Sanchez) is a double or triple agent, depending on how you view her and her breasts. Not all the bad guys are Asian. The worse guys are Los Angelenos, and a Trump-like billionaire casino owner named Steven Reign (Alan King) is the worst guy of all.

Plausibility is not an issue or a prerequisite -- hell, it's not even an option -- in this genre. To fault a film like this for credibility is like criticizing Huey, Dewey and Louie for the fact that ducks don't talk. Reality has no part or say in the matter.

That said, nevertheless, there are still certain conventions we might expect to be followed, such as the ironclad rule that you never let the funny sidekick dominate the star or the story -- especially if he's the unfunniest sidekick since Tonto, incessantly putting the junior-high make on every female in sight. I don't know if Tucker was anywhere near this obnoxious in "RH" No. 1, but if I never see him again it'll be too soon. He is an embarrassment to himself and, worse, to Chan -- who's looking long in the tooth these days. Jackie can't surmount Tucker's relentlessly sophomoric distractions long enough to get into the rhythm of the nice mindless action he's paid to do and we've paid to see.

The best part of the movie, in fact, consists of the outtakes at its end. Try as he might, a dozen times, Tucker can't say "gefilte fish."

Otherwise, it's pretty much a mess.

On the one hand, you've got a couple good free-for-alls with clever fight choreography -- a bare-ass skirmish in a Hong Kong massage parlor shtick, and a casino brawl in Las Vegas highlighted by Chan's amazing slide through the grate of a cashier's window.

On the other hand, you have those sequences diluted, if not spoiled, by Tucker's ongoing idiocy and by the most repugnant gay Versace-salesman stereotype I've ever seen.

On the third hand, what are they doing here? The mild cartoon violence of "Rush Hour 2" is like Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote -- pretty unobjectionable, as violence goes, and harmless enough. But not entertaining enough.

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