More of the Same. Isn't That Great?
Most Jackie Chan movies are the same, right? The plot is always about Chan the good guy against some bad guys, but the movie is really about the awesome blend of martial-arts and physical comedy. And it doesn't really matter which Jackie Chan movie you see; the formula is always the same. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Chan's amazing stuntwork and innate likeability keeps audiences coming back for more; the idea is recycled, but you always want more just the same.
Likewise, Rush Hour 2 can be considered a recycled version of Rush Hour, and it is not necessarily a bad thing. The first movie was a surprise hit due largely to the strangely cohesive marriage of Jackie Chan's comic martial arts and co-star Chris Tucker's motormouth brand of comedy. The two personalities played well off of each other, with the abrasive but well-meaning Tucker set against Chan's soft-spoken personality. It was very funny to watch the first time, and for this second go-around the feeling is no different. That which worked the first time is put back together for the second time, and the result does not fail to keep us laughing.
Rush Hour 2 is mainly just a showcase for a) the individual shtick of its two stars and b) their combined shtick. And that's all it really needs to be. I'm not even sure I remember what the plot was all about; it had something to do with counterfeit money, and it had our heroes, Chan a cop from Hong Kong and friend Tucker a cop from Los Angeles, going from Hong Kong to L.A. and eventually to Las Vegas. It didn't really matter too much what the plot was. Scenes alternate among Tucker by himself trying to fast-talk his way through a situation; Tucker and Chan having one of their amusing exchanges; Chan by himself trying to martial arts his way through a situation; Tucker and Chan both trying to martial arts their way through a situation. That's all I could ever ask for. The bits are hilarious.
This movie's a little faster than its predecessor because, of course, there's no need for set-up. We already know that these two are Detectives Lee (Chan) and Carter (Tucker), and that they are good buddies. Rush Hour 2 jumps right in with Tucker doing his thang and Chan doing his thang. It's always nice when a movie can dive right in to the good stuff with little fuss. All it needs to do is add a few supporting characters and villains. John Lone (where has HE been lately?) is strangely cast as the former partner of Lee's father, even though Jackie Chan looks older than Lone. Roselyn Sanchez plays a sultry agent whose allegiance is uncertain. And Zhang Ziyi plays a high-kicking, bomb-happy, evil psycho henchwoman.
I heard that a fuss might be raised over the nature of Tucker's humor when directed toward Asians. Chinese people might get offended at all the short jokes or something. Well, I'm Chinese, and I was laughing like crazy. There's no offense to be had here; Tucker's character is good-natured at heart. Also, the humor involving him strikes a good balance between his making embarassing remarks about Asian culture and his getting embarassed himself. Later in the movie, even Chan gets off a funny ethnic joke at Tucker's expense. In other words, it's all good.
Honestly, outside of Moulin Rouge!, I haven't had this good a time in a movie theater all summer. From Tucker's attempt not to buy a chicken to Chan's unexpected turn as a peeping tom, there's plenty of reason to laugh along with the rest of the audience. As usual, stick around during the end credits for the outtakes. This is fun action and comedy, a well-honed stunts-and-shtick flick. The audience will come back for more.
©Jeffrey Chen, Aug. 3, 2001
(Released by New Line Cinema and rated "PG-13" for action, violence, language and some sexual material.)