In 1998, veteran Hong Kong martial arts star Jackie Chan finally became a valued Hollywood commodity with the success of "Rush Hour", an East-meets-West buddy cop movie that went on to rake in north of $140 million at the box office. Not surprisingly, the studio execs at New Line Cinema commissioned a sequel, and now, three years later, "Rush Hour 2" has finally arrived. Unfortunately, if you found the first one to be lacking due to the illogical plot, the so-so action sequences, and the annoying ranting of Chris Tucker, then you'll probably enjoy "Rush Hour 2" even less.
When we last saw Detective Inspector Lee (Chan) and LAPD Detective James Carter (Tucker) at the tail end of "Rush Hour", they were boarding a plane bound for Hong Kong for some much deserved R 'n R. The sequel picks the action up a few days later, where their vacation is cut short by the bombing of the United States embassy and they are put on the case. Fortunately, it doesn't take them long to track down the man who may be responsible for the bombings, Triad boss Ricky Tan (John Lone, best known from "The Last Emperor"). But in order to snare their suspect, they must deal with Tan's gang of hired goons, as well as his loyal lieutenant Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"), who is as beautiful as she is deadly. During their investigation, which takes them from Hong Kong to Los Angeles and ultimately Las Vegas, the duo also crosses paths with a powerful real estate developer (Alan King of "Casino") and a comely US customs agent (Roselyn Sanchez), both of whom might be crooked.
The first half of "Rush Hour 2" essentially reverses the 'fish out of water' situation of the first film-- instead of Lee trying to understand the ways of Los Angelinos, Carter fumbles through the streets of Hong Kong with a phrasebook and his grating personality. Unfortunately, as in the first film, Tucker's motor-mouth antics end up beong more annoying than funny, as many of his long and boisterous tirades are lacking a punchline, or even a point. And like "Rush Hour", director Brett Ratner (who helmed last Christmas' "The Family Man") frames his shots too tightly and cuts his scenes too quickly, making it difficult for audiences to properly appreciate the martial arts action-- this is most apparent when Zhang lets loose with some "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"-style swordplay during the film's climax. As for the martial arts, the action is tame compared to some of the eye-popping fight scenes Chan pulls off in his other recent film, "The Accidental Spy", a Hong Kong-borne effort that will hit North American theaters later this year.
Cast-wise, with the exception of Tucker, the assembled actors acquit themselves decently. Chan easily steps into the role of dedicated Detective Lee, who must baby-sit Carter while they are in Hong Kong. Despite being given little to do other than look mean and kick Carter in the face, Zhang is fun to watch as the film's ice queen villainess, stealing the rug out from under Lone's portrayal of the chief bad guy, while Sanchez shares some surprising (albeit short-lived) chemistry with Chan. Finally, Don Cheadle ("Traffic") makes a brief but interesting appearance as Carter's Chinese-speaking (!) and kung-fu fighting informant.
Compared to last year's "Shanghai Noon", which benefited from a better pairing of Jackie Chan with the easygoing Owen Wilson, as well as a more clever script, "Rush Hour 2" seems tired and tedious, rehashing the same old stale clichés and culture-shock humor from the first film. Other than the welcome presence of Chinese cinema's 'It girl' Zhang Ziyi and some great bloopers at the end of the film, there's little reason to get caught in this 'Rush'.