Rush Hour 2 (United States, 2001)

A movie review by James Berardinelli

While the rules of the buddy/action comedy are significantly different from those of the romantic comedy, one key ingredient is common to both popular genres: that of chemistry between the leads. Unfortunately, while both motormouthed Chris Tucker and rubber limbed Jackie Chan are energetic and charismatic in their own right, they mix as well as oil and water. Yes, their characters - Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee and LAPD's Detective James Carter - are supposed to be mismatched. The problem is that the actors seem to be less in synch than their on-screen alter egos. There's more going on between sizzling Roselyn Sanchez and Chan, who only share a handful of scenes, than between Chan and Tucker.

The success of 1998's Rush Hour, the film in which Jackie Chan finally successfully broke through the Hollywood barrier, mandated that there would be a sequel. For the most part, this is more of the same. Tucker's character has been toned down a little (he's no longer consistently obnoxious - only occasionally so), and Chan has been given the opportunity to do a little more of what he does best. While the inventiveness of the stunt work in Rush Hour 2 doesn't come close to that of Chan's best Hong Kong-produced films, at least this outing grants him more respect than its predecessor did. However, although the action sequences work in Rush Hour 2, little else does. The comedy is sporadic at best (in all honesty, the funniest scenes by far come during the closing credits), with some jokes being overplayed to the point where they cross the line from mildly amusing to downright silly. Worse than the comedy, however, are director Brett Ratner's feeble attempts at character building. Fortunately, Rush Hour 2 doesn't venture into the dramatic mine field too often, because, on those occasions when it does, it's laughably bad.

The plot, as in all movies of this ilk, is just a clothesline upon which to hang the action sequences and comedic bits. Rush Hour 2 opens in Hong Kong, where Lee is showing his new friend Carter the sights. Suddenly, the U.S. Embassy is bombed and the intrepid duo find themselves on the case, tracking down Fu-Cang-Long Triad boss Ricky Tan (John Lone), avoiding his deadly second-in-charge, the beautiful Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi), and trying to figure out the true motives of Customs Agent Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez). Their investigation uncovers an international counterfeiting ring and takes them from Hong Kong to Los Angeles to Las Vegas, where the finale comes in and around the strip's newest, most lavish casino.

In addition to Chan and Tucker, who provide the film's star wattage as well as the lion's share of its charisma, Ratner has assembled an intriguing cast. Jone Lone's bad guy is suave, cultured, and calm - an interesting contrast to most of the psychopaths running around in these sorts of movies. Unfortunately, Lone is so unflappable and in control that it's difficult to actively dislike him. The more interesting villain is Hu Li, played by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi in her first Hollywood-funded outing. Zhang really doesn't have much to do here except look vicious and kick Tucker in the face a few times, but her presence is welcome. Roselyn Sanchez plays a woman of mystery who attracts Lee's attention. And veteran comedian Alan King has a serious role as a very wealthy businessman.

One of the more glaring problems with this film is that, like its predecessor, it has a divided focus between Chan's physical craftsmanship and Tucker's verbal acrobatics. If Rush Hour 2 was uproarious, or even mildly funny, it would cover a great many sins, but the four or five big laughs the movie offers aren't enough to fill the vacuum between action sequences. When it comes to the martial arts conflicts, there are a couple of nice ones, including one that takes place on a bamboo scaffolding, but there's nothing eye-popping or adrenaline-producing. Compared to the high octane work in the recent Jet Li outing, Kiss of the Dragon, Rush Hour 2 seems tame. Also, music video veteran Ratner does too much cutting during these sequences, detracting from Chan's physical artistry. Everything about Rush Hour 2 is obligatory, from the action to the tiresome banter, and that makes it just another stale sequel in a summer that has had no shortage of those.

Rush Hour 2 (United States, 2001)

Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Roselyn Sanchez, John Lone, Zhang Ziyi, Alan King
Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Music: Lalo Schifrin
U.S. Distributor: New Line Cinema
Run Time: 1:30
U.S. Release Date: 2001-08-03
MPAA Rating: "PG-13" (Violence, Profanity, Nudity)
Subtitles: none
Theatrical Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1