Take two underdogs who can't stand one another and send them off on the trail of a criminal-- a task that no one, especially the top brass, expects them to complete. Of course, given the unique comic perspective given to each character, hilarious antics are certain to ensue. The buddy cop movie-- a staple of American cinema. Over the years, this well-tread genre has been done to death, whether its good cop-bad cop (the "Lethal Weapon" franchise), bad cop-bad cop ("Tango & Cash"), bad cop-bad criminal ("48 Hours"), good cop-bad dog ("Turner and Hooch"), good cop-smart kid ("Cop and a Half"), good cop-Red cop ("Red Heat"), or good cop-dead cop ("Dead Heat").
"Rush Hour" is the latest in this long line of buddy-cop movies. The pitch this time has a streetwise LAPD cop partnered with an Asian cop, which isn't all that original since it was already done in 1987's "Collision Course" that paired Jay Leno and Pat Morita as the unlikely crime-fighting duo. This time around it's Chris Tucker ("The Fifth Element") and Jackie Chan-- one talks trash and the other kicks ass.
This, of course, provides an excellent opportunity to play 'Buddy Cop Bingo'. To play, think of every possible joke or cliché comic situation you could put these two characters in and write them down. Watch the movie and cross them off as they appear on the screen. Yell "Bingo!" when you've crossed everything off. "Rush Hour" is one of those movies where Buddy Cop Bingo players have a field day-- it's not great, but the movie does have its moments, albeit short.
Detective Inspector Lee (Chan) of the Royal Hong Kong Police is a tough no-nonsense cop whose martial arts prowess comes in handy when he's solving crimes. Thousands of miles away, James Carter (Tucker with an Eddie Murphy-Will Smith thing goin' on) of the LAPD is a reckless, arrogant, and mouthy detective who absolutely refuses to be partnered with anyone (surprise, surprise). When the eleven-year old daughter of the Chinese Consul is kidnapped in Los Angeles, Lee is on the first plane leaving Hong Kong. However, the FBI, fearing an international incident if Lee were to be injured during the investigation, decide to send Lee on a wild-goose chase, which will keep him out of harm's way. Not wanting to waste the FBI's resources on baby-sitting the Hong Kong detective, they call up the LAPD, who send Carter.
It doesn't take too long for the mismatched duo to figure out that they've been shortchanged. Lee doesn't like being kept away from the investigation, and even worse, being saddled with an obnoxious and egotistical cop. Carter, who has dreamed of working for the FBI, knows that he is nothing more than a glorified errand boy. However, after the FBI investigation hits a few snags, they soon realize that they must join forces to save the girl, despite warnings to the contrary. Enlisting the help of LAPD bomb expert (gee, do you think there's going to be a bomb in third act?) Tania Johnson (Elizabeth Peña of "Lone Star"), this oil-and-water crime-fighting duo will face off against a notorious Chinese gangster and the criminal mastermind behind-the-scenes who is calling the shots.
Granted, this is the first wide-release Jackie Chan movie that isn't atrociously dubbed and actually has decent production values (compare this with his last two clunkers "Operation Condor" and "Mr. Nice Guy"). Unfortunately, there's nothing that you haven't seen before. Chan certainly is given numerous opportunities to display his hyperkinetic martial arts expertise, but most of these action sequences are a 'best of' compilation from his previous films. Tucker does the shrill and annoying routine he always does.
What's even more troubling about "Rush Hour" is the illogical script that has plot holes so big that you could drive a truck through them. The chain of events that propel the story forward rely on a series of unbelievable coincidences and lucky breaks. While being chased in an abandoned building, the criminal mastermind drops a trigger, which Lee JUST HAPPENS to notice only after tripping. Lee and Carter don't recognize it, so they take it to Johnson, who JUST HAPPENS to recognize the fuse as a possible trigger for C4, the explosive. Carter JUST HAPPENED to arrest a guy who was fencing C4, and shows him the trigger. Of course, the explosives dealer JUST HAPPENS to have sold the trigger to the criminal mastermind and points them to a local Chinese restaurant. Meanwhile, the criminal mastermind JUST HAPPENS to have arranged for a ransom drop in, of all places, the alley behind his headquarters, which is located in a Chinese restaurant (well, duh). Had it not been for this fortuitous streak of five coincidences, the story would have been stuck in a rut, and the investigation would have gone nowhere. Five coincidences! My god, police work is easy!
"Rush Hour" is an average effort that is nothing to write home about with its cliché- and coincidence-laden plot. But, then again, nobody really watches a Jackie Chan movie for the plot do they? We watch it for the amazing fight choreography and the 'how did he do that?' gee-whiz factor. Chan-fans will certainly get a healthy dose of Chan doing what he does best, but it pales in comparison to his previous work. As I said, it does have its moments... it wasn't ALL bad. I did at least enjoy the blooper reel.