By Justin Lowe
At the conclusion of the original Rush Hour, Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) board a Hong Kong-bound plane after they crack an international kidnap-for-ransom ring, as Carter anticipates enjoying a well-deserved vacation. Cut to the opening scene of Rush Hour 2: Lee and Carter cruise down a Hong Kong street, singing along to California Girls on the car stereo. Remove the credits from the two films and Rush Hour becomes one continuous three-hour movie a prospect that Chans international fans will no doubt relish, even if it turns out to be too much of a good thing.
Rush Hour was Chans 1998 breakthrough English-language release, with $250 million in worldwide box office. It paved the way for the success of Shanghai Noon (with its own sequel currently in development) and practically preordained Rush Hour 2. The movie also popularized the Asian-African American buddy film genre, a formula that Sammo Hung and Arsenio Hall later capitalized on in the Martial Law TV series.
The storyline literally picks up where it left off, but for those unfamiliar with the original, Rush Hour 2 succeeds on its own, reprising Chan and Tuckers trademark action-comedy style. After arriving in Hong Kong, Detective Carters vacation plans are quickly cut short when a bomb explodes at the U.S. embassy, killing two customs agents and forcing Lee back to work.
The suspected mastermind behind the bombing and the counterfeiting of $100 million in high-quality $100 superbills is Ricky Tan (John Lone), the former partner who betrayed Lees police officer father. Lee is soon hot on Tans trail, but Carter isnt giving up on his vacation quite so easily. In a series of amusing setups at colorful Hong Kong locations a karaoke bar, the Heaven on Earth massage parlor and a fancy Victoria Harbor yacht party Carter attempts to salvage some romantic opportunities from the case, with predictably comic results.
The investigators lose their lead suspect after Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi), Tans accomplice, shoots him at the yacht party in an apparent attempt to seize control of the counterfeiting ring. Lee and Carter pursue Hu back to the U.S. for a spectacular showdown on the Las Vegas Strip at the Red Dragon casino, an elaborate Chinese-style set constructed at the former Desert Inn Hotel.
Whereas Jackie Chans typical Hong Kong movies rely primarily on fight scenes, action sequences and superb physical comedy, the Hollywood framework demands a somewhat more plot-driven approach, with emphasis on character and dialogue. The entertaining script by Rush Hour writer Jeff Nathanson is full of witty one-liners that favor the fast-talking Tucker, but several action scenes display Chan at his best. While he doesnt take any leaps from airborne helicopters or towering skyscrapers, a fight scene with Hu Li and her thugs on the bamboo scaffolding of a Hong Kong apartment block is suitably death-defying, and the all-out massage parlor brawl with Ricky Tans goons showcases Chans always remarkable fight choreography.
Although not known as an action director, Brett Ratner (The Family Man, Money Talks) is up to the challenge of capturing Jackies boundless energy, working closely with Chan to stage his action sequences and catalyze the comic rapport between Lee and Carter.
Chan has developed his own instantly identifiable brand of action film and become so closely identified with his onscreen persona that he always seems to be playing the same irresistibly engaging character: Jackie Chan. With his martial arts expertise and flair for clownish comedy, Jackie gets the laughs as well as the gasps. While Tucker may lack some of Chans originality, the fast-talking comedian delivers his lines with almost manic animation, and manages to match or parody his co-stars physical agility with often amusing results.
Riding the success of her Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon role, Zhang Ziyi makes her American debut as Ricky Tans ruthless and sadistic sidekick. Although her performance is undercut somewhat by her youthful beauty and limited English-language ability, Zhangs action skills and easy rapport with Chan are ample compensation.
Rush Hour 2 delivers on expectations for rapid-fire action and comedy, although it remains hampered by an inevitable degree of predictability and similarity with the original movie. But a lack of novelty is unlikely to impede the Rush Hour legacy the final scene of Rush Hour 2 sees Tucker and Lee boarding a plane for New York. Any guesses on the setting for Rush Hour 3?
Rush Hour 2 is rated PG-13 and opens nationwide August 3.