Banking on the off-chance that audiences have so missed the comic pairing of helium-voiced motormouth Chris Tucker and action legend Jackie Chan, director Brett Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson serve up a lazy rehash of the first two installments of the RUSH HOUR franchise.
It's been three years since Hong Kong's Inspector Lee (Chan) and LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker) tore up Las Vegas while chasing down the ex-partner of Lee's dad. Carter has since been demoted to directing traffic, while Lee is back in the employ of Chinese ambassador consul Han (Tzi Ma). Carter and Lee are thrown back together when a sniper wounds Han during a meeting of the World Criminal Court in L.A. Han had been appointed by WCC chairman Minister Reynard (Max von Sydow) to lead the fight against the nefarious Chinese Triads, an international criminal enterprise so large their empire is reportedly worth $50 billion, but so shadowy that some doubt its existence. Consul Han was about to provide concrete evidence of the Triads' leadership when he was silenced by the sniper's bullet. Lee chases the assassin across L.A. but lets him slip away when he realizes the mysterious gunman is Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), Lee's adopted Japanese brother who, like his father's former partner, has gone to the dark side. While Consul Han is recovering, Lee and Carter vow once again to protect Han and his now-grown daughter, Soo Yung (Jingchu Zhang). Needless to say, the globe-trotting escapade requires Lee to perform gravity-defying stunts (though not as many as a younger Chan was able to pull off in the first two films) and Carter to sing "The Closer I Get to You" in a castrato's falsetto while Lee descends from the ceiling of a tacky Paris nightclub on a velvet swing. It all ends in an interminable brawl on the Eiffel Tower.
Ratner and Nathanson tone down Carter's you-Chinese, you-so-funny humor, and toss in additional comic relief from the relentless action courtesy of an annoying sidekick (hey, it worked for the LETHAL WEAPON franchise): George (Yvan Attal), a Parisian cabbie who wants to kill someone for no reason so he can know what it feels like to be American. He may be the only flash of anything remotely resembling an innovation; otherwise, there's nothing here you haven't seen twice before, which may actually be a recommendation to fans. There's simply no accounting for taste when it comes to action comedies, or for the willingness of international talent to subject themselves to a RUSH HOUR sequel. In addition to Von Sydow and Sanada, the Japanese actor who was so memorable in TWILIGHT SAMURAI and THE HIDDEN BLADE, Judith Ivey does an admittedly funny turn as a nun recruited to translate N-word-laden threats aimed at Carter by a French thug. Strangest of all, Roman Polanski shows up to torture our heroes with a Paris phone book, then subject them to a full-cavity search. A gratuitous nod to CHINATOWN? Who knows? Who cares? leave a comment --Ken Fox