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'Rush Hour': Slow Going

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 18, 1998

  Movie Critic


Rush Hour
Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan star in "Rush Hour." (New Line Cinema)

Director:
Brett Ratner
Cast:
Jackie Chan;
Chris Tucker;
Tom Wilkinson;
Mark Rolston;
Tzi Ma;
Julia Hsu;
Elizabeth Pena
Running Time:
1 hour, 38 minutes
PG-13
For profanity, medium-strength gunplay and a modest explosion
"Rush Hour," starring the undynamic duo of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, is a misbegotten marriage of sweet and sour.

Pairing a dedicated Hong Kong detective (Chan) with an arrogant, roguish Los Angeles cop (Tucker), director Brett Ratner's sluggish, schizoid film sets the odd couple on the trail of kidnappers who have made off with the daughter (Julia Hsu) of a Chinese diplomat (Tzi Ma). As Detective Inspector Lee, action star extraordinaire Chan brings his usual winning smile and lethal appendages to the mix, while comedian Tucker, as LAPD misfit James Carter, reprises his manic rap shtick (displayed to much better advantage in "Friday" and "Money Talks.")

What exactly is this hybrid beast? Is it trying to be a martial-arts movie leavened with a touch of street-wise comedy? Or does it want to be an urban farce tarted up with a dash of Kung-Fu spice? The problem is it can't make up its mind and, unlike Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, the sharply contrasting flavors of these ingredients only leave a bad taste in the customer's mouth.

It's odd-though telling-that this film is being hyped as "the fastest hands in the East versus the biggest mouth in the West." Where Chan and Tucker should work together and complement each other, they only end up vying for the spotlight, producing a whole that is a lot less than the sum of its parts.

Where's a kvetcher to begin? Let's start with Tucker, woefully miscast as a policeman. His staccato patter, bug-eyed double-takes and slick put-downs are perfect for the hapless con men and slackers he usually plays, but as a law enforcement officer he is a joke, violating a mind-boggling array of departmental procedures and protocol (not to mention laws) with each step he takes.

But suspend for a moment your disbelief in this modern-day Keystone Kop. When held up to the genial import Lee, who disarms bad guys with his toes and then apologizes for his bad manners, Carter's rapid-fire and vaguely racist rants about Asians only seem uglier than they are. And a sequence in which the homeboy tries to teach Lee how to sing along to Edwin Starr's soulful "War," while Lee shows his reluctant partner how to relieve an adversary of his gun, is neither particularly funny nor illustrative, nor sufficient interaction to even justify the term "buddy film."

Next complaint: Jim Kouf and Ross Lamanna's perfunctory and sloppy script, which relies on explosions over sense and pays so little attention to detail that the young kidnap victim Soo Yung is alternately identified as 10 and then 11 years old.

Ratner, a prolific director of music videos before turning to features with the far superior "Money Talks," brings little visual style and no sense of pacing to this limp, lethargic exercise, despite Chan's mighty exertions in a wonderful scene in which Lee punches and kicks an army of evil-doers while trying to prevent a 500-year-old Chinese vase from breaking.

How ironic that the series of closing-credit outtakes – a delightful staple of Jackie Chan movies – is the best thing about "Rush Hour" (whose title, by the way, has nothing to do with anything).

In the outtakes, we are treated to glimpses of the spontaneous and easy rapport that grew between Chan and Tucker during shooting, all the more sad and surprising due to its utter absence in the finished film.

   
© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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