Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Zhang Ziyi, Roselyn Sanchez, Alan King, Maggie Q, Kenneth Tsang, Harris Yulin
Written by: Jeff Nathanson
Directed by: Brett Ratner
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for action violence, language and some sexual material
Running Time: 90
Date: 07/26/2001

Rush Hour 2 (2001)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Pathetic Two Hours

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Interestingly, my favorite Jackie Chan movies are all sequels: Project A II (1987), Armour of God II: Operation Condor (1991) and Drunken Master II (1994) (in their original Chinese language versions, please). So it follows that "Rush Hour 2" should at least be halfway decent. And, indeed, the best I can say for it is that it blows away the first Rush Hour, but unfortunately it still doesn't add up to much of a good flick.

For the first Rush Hour, the New Line people somehow decided that the world's biggest movie star could not carry his first big American film on his own. He needed a sidekick. And so, in their wisdom, they selected the most annoying human being on earth, the Jar Jar Binks of human life, Chris Tucker. The director of both movies, Brett Ratner, also decided to give Tucker lots of dialogue and backstory about his dead father, the reason he became a cop, and so on; Tucker babbled and gibbered on far more than he needed to.

In Rush Hour 2, Tucker doesn't have any "serious" dialogue. He just shoots out high-pitched one-liners for 90 minutes. Even better, Tucker and Chan split up for long portions of the movie, allowing Chan to be on the screen alone, unhindered by anyone slower and less gifted. The plot has the two cops vacationing in Hong Kong together when someone decides to blow up the American embassy; the explosion kills two secret agents trying to uncover a smuggling ring. The Hong Kong police suspect gangster Ricky Tan (John Lone), and so he becomes our heroes' first target. It turns out that the bad guys are smuggling counterfeit plates actually manufactured by the U.S. mint and sent to Iran as a gift back in the 1950s (huh?).

In any case, it's a good excuse for Chan to do his thing with Tucker in tow. Tucker continually bungles things, shoots off his mouth, cowers and runs away, then makes up excuses and lies to cover his ineptitude. The only time I laughed was when someone managed to clobber him. Chan, on the other hand, is a hero's hero, a pillar of nobility, coolness, and consummate skill. Two or three great set pieces show an older, wiser and slightly slower Chan, but still a phenomenon nonetheless.

Fourth-rate director Ratner seems to have taken a few lessons from Chan and keeps the camera on him for longish periods of time with not much shaking. (He ruined the action scenes in the first film.) However, he's unable to put together a cohesive story without holes. In one scene, Tucker hails a cab sometime in the middle of the day and arrives at the Hong Kong waterfront sometime after dark. (I didn't think Hong Kong was that big.) A few other similar lapses in time continue throughout the story. Somehow Ratner managed to collect an amazing array of character actors for the film. The great Don Cheadle shows up as an informant running a Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles, Saul Rubinek plays a casino croupier, Jeremy Piven turns up as a swishy Versace salesman, and Alan King appears as a filthy American capitalist.

Best of all, Zhang Ziyi from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and The Road Home plays a nasty, beautiful, deadly villainess. And it's good to see Lone, who hasn't been around much since The Last Emperor all those years ago. As with any Chan film, however, the best part -- the outtakes -- comes during the end credits, and I won't give any of them away. The final tally: four stars for Jackie Chan, no stars for director Brett Ratner, and minus two stars for Chris Tucker, giving the film a total of two.

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