Sunday, August 12, 2007

Rush Hour 3 / * (PG-13)

Detective James Carter: Chris Tucker
Chief Inspector Lee: Jackie Chan
Kenji: Hiroyuki Sanada
Genevieve: Noemie Lenoir
George: Yvan Attal
Soo Yung: Jingchu Zhang
Dragon Lady: Youki Kudoh
Varden Reynard: Max Von Sydow
Detective Revi: Roman Polanski

New Line Cinema presents a film directed by Brett Ratner. Written by Jeff Nathanson. Running time: 90 min. Rated PG-13 (for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language).

While we were walking out of the theater, my wife said, “The bloopers during the closing credits were the best part, like always.” I wondered to myself why I had even bothered with “Rush Hour 3”. I didn’t like the first pairing of martial arts star Jackie Chan and comedian Chris Tucker in “Rush Hour”, and felt I had been completely ripped off by “Rush Hour 2”. But it somehow still seems like the combination should work, so I went into number three with the hope that this time they got it right. However, the third time is not always the charm.

What is truly amazing about this film is that a director like Brett Ratner, who has so successfully followed up other directors’ franchise material in films like “Red Dragon” and “X-Men: The Last Stand”, could do such a poor job cobbling together the third installment in his own franchise. I mean this movie is so flawed it wouldn’t receive a passing grade in film school. Consider a sequence where Tucker’s character rescues the showgirl Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir, “The Valet”) from Chinese Triad hit men during a Paris revue. The hit men are prepared to shoot the beauty in plain sight while she is on stage doing a solo, but when Carter appears onstage with her, it is enough to stay their trigger fingers. Forget that Carter himself is already on their hitlist for foiling their attempt to kill the Chinese Ambassador at the World Criminal Court in Los Angeles just days before. For that matter, does this World Criminal Court even exist? And should I really be questioning its existence during an action film in which it plays a pivotal role?

Chief Inspector Lee (Chan, “Shanghai Knights”) and Detective James Carter (Tucker, don’t ask me where he’s been since “Rush Hour 2”) bungle their way into discovering why the Triads have targeted the ambassador for assassination. The trail leads to Paris where—after a mind boggling cameo by director Roman Polanski (“The Pianist”) as a Parisian Police Inspector who feels it is necessary to torture visiting law enforcement officers for no reason—the two discover that Genevieve is the bearer of a list of names integral to the Triads’ existence. While beautiful, Genevieve couldn’t be much a rocket scientist to think that revealing this list to the ambassador wouldn’t go unpunished. But she seems sure it will still be safe to continue to work her very high profile job. And the true nature of Varden Reynard could not be more obvious even if he wasn’t played by such a frequent heavy as Max Von Sydow (“Minority Report”).

“Rush Hour 3” is strictly amateur night at the multiplex. The plot is a flimsy excuse to place the stoic Chan into action situations, which Tucker can then ridicule; it’s a wonder they even bothered. It isn’t that Tucker isn’t funny. There is a good Laurel & Hardy type of bit where Carter is trying to take names in a martial arts dojo, but it immediately follows a fight scene with a giant that lies somewhere in the realm between “Beverly Hills Ninja” and “The Little Dragons”. Strictly kids stuff.

There was a time when Jackie Chan could amaze and awe his audiences with an ability to combine martial arts with a use of his environment and adept comic timing. At his best he has been compared to other great physical comedians like Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. As he has gotten older, his action sequences have relied less on his hands-on ability to work the physical environment his characters find themselves in, and rely more so on conventional action setups and long shots that don’t require as much physical risk for the action star. As a result his comedy does not flow so freely from the action, often forcing the comedy into the action sequences.

As for the rest of “Rush Hour 3”, it’s all been seen before, and most of it has been scraped from the bottom of the movie cliché dung heap. Even the great composer Lalo Schifrin’s score conjures the hackneyed and overdone swells of sappy melodrama.

With material as formulaic as the buddy cop action comedy, originality is not really something the filmmakers could be expected to present. But still, someone should have pointed out to Ratner that just a little more of an effort was needed for scrutinizing audiences to care about these characters the third time around. People are more than willing to move on to something fresher. But instead Ratner has forgotten any lessons he might have learned from carrying another director’s work into a sequel, and just thrown whatever he could get on screen, saving his best work for the blooper reel.

Buy it: Rush Hour series

1 comment:

Alan Bacchus said...

I didn't like RH1 or RH2, and have no desire to see numero 3. I doubt Ratner even likes the film. It's a paycheque film all around. With a $50million weekend, someone is falling for this joke. I think Ratner us punking us all.