You don't have to look hard to see that the Jackie Chan of ten years ago and the Jackie Chan of Rush Hour 3 are two fairly different guys. The martial arts dynamo whose stuntwork made Rumble in the Bronx and Supercop such fun has toned down his act in recent years. But even taking into consideration a stuntman or two filling in for the more dangerous scenes, Rush Hour 3 is still surprisingly devoid of the same energy that fueled Chan's most entertaining flicks. In short, the six-year wait since Rush Hour 2 hasn't been worth it at all.
Rush Hour 3 continues the adventures of the motormouthed Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) and the dedicated Inspector Lee (Chan). Their latest partnering comes as a result of the Chinese ambassador's attempted assassination, just mere moments before he was to blow the lid on the mysterious Chinese Triad crime organizations. Before you can say Jacques Chirac, Carter and Lee are headed off to Paris, where the World Criminal Court is convening for its next meeting, to continue their investigation. But as the crimefighting pair soon find out, the City of Lights has its fair share of danger and surprises in store for them. In addition to evading assassins, Carter and Lee cross paths with a slinky cabaret singer (Noemie Lenoir) somehow connected with the case, run afoul of an unwelcoming cop (Roman Polanski), and find an unlikely ally in the form of an anti-American cabbie (Yvan Attal).
Setting aside, for the moment, the action sequences, what's been a central component to the Rush Hour series to this point has been the relationship between the two leads. Chan and Tucker are Abbott and Costello with more car chases, Chan playing the straight man to Tucker's wild, off-the-wall antics. How well these guys worked together helped make the first two Rush Hours more fun than your average buddy cop flicks, but time and tide have taken a serious toll on outing number three. Like so many recent sequels, Rush Hour 3 is a bland, assembly-line production made to milk a little more money out of a franchise that should've quit while it was ahead. It's not that I wasn't looking forward to a third Rush Hour (which, being a fan of Jackie Chan since childhood, I was), but the boring, unimaginative way in which the franchise's main players come back together is a real blow to my expectations. The cookie-cutter story barely keeps this movie afloat, and director Brett Ratner could have done a lot better. The harsh criticisms he received for disappointing fans with X-Men: The Last Stand are nothing compared to how he falls asleep at the wheel here.
Gone is the sparkling chemistry that made Chan and Tucker blend together so well. Tucker's jabberjaw soon starts nagging at your eardrums, and even though he's aged a little beyond the risky stuntwork that put him on the map, Chan's moves don't seem very exciting here (although I loved a moment during the climactic action sequence in which he jumps up and wraps himself in a flag to hide from the bad guys). Sure, Paris looks terrific, and Ratner uses the Eiffel Tower to the fullest extent in the flick's final moments, but sometimes it all feels for naught considering what a pedestrian, "shoot 'em up" action story is filling up the running time. Max von Sydow seems especially bored, playing the head of the World Criminal Court but looking like he's thinking about what he needs to pick up from the store at the end of the day. Still, there are a few little elements to enjoy, from the sheer curiosity of notorious, Oscar-winning director Polanski's cameo as a French cop and Attal's amusing supporting turn as a cabbie who develops a taste for danger after getting wrapped up in a car chase.
Much attention has been focused upon this summer's blockbuster "threequels," but while Ocean's Thirteen and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End managed to surpass their predecessors in sheer entertainment, Rush Hour 3 only serves to remind viewers how much more fun the first two were.
MY RATING: ** (out of ****)
(Released by New Line Cinema and rated "PG-13" for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language.)
Listen to Adam Hakari discuss Rush Hour 3 on BlogTalkRadio by clicking here.