Get ready for a second rush!
In 1998, Jackie Chan (Rumble In The Bronx, Mr. Nice Guy) was paired up in a cop buddy film with motormouthed comedian Chris Tucker (The Fifth Element). The film, Rush Hour, marketed the international stardom and jaw-dropping stunt work of Jackie Chan, giving American audiences their first mainstream look at his work, with the comedic talents of Tucker. Rational minds would think a pairing like this wouldn't work, but for some reason it did and Rush Hour went on to make lots and lots of money at the box office. With the success of the film, Chan finally established a foothold with the American audiences and has capitalized on this, going on to make Shanghai Noon with Owen Wilson, re-releasing The Legend of Drunken Master (which has, hands down, the best fight scene he's done to date) and finally prompting a sequel in Rush Hour 2. New Line has gone and made the Rush Hour 2 DVD release a part of its infinifilm line, so named because they wanted a nonsensical word that was difficult for critics to type.
Facts of the Case
The story of Rush Hour 2 picks up in Hong Kong right after the first film left off. Detective Lee (Chan) is giving a tour of his home city to Detective Carter (Tucker) when he learns that the American Consulate has been blown up by Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi—Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) for reasons unknown. Lee, being the consummate professional that he is, drags Carter along on the investigation despite the fact that Carter is simply trying to have a good time. Evidence soon points to Triad leader Ricky Tan, an ex-cop who possibly had something to do with the death of Detective Lee's father. A customs agent named Isabella (Roselyn Sanchez) also manages to intervene and sends the boys packing to Las Vegas where they run afoul of a counterfeiting scheme. Or something like that.
Frankly, it's really difficult to care about the nitty gritty of the story because it was pretty obvious from the get-go that the writer and director simply didn't. Events in the story fly by at a breakneck pace (the film is only 91 minutes long, including the credits) and serves as a springboard to get to another comedy moment or to get to a fight or action scene. This is really unfortunate, because the first Rush Hour actually managed to have a compelling story to it. As a result of the pace, the viewer never really settles in to what is or isn't going on in Rush Hour 2. Ask me what the movie is about a week from now and I'll have forgotten most of the details of the plot. This could be because of a weekend drinking bender, or it's more likely because the story is tremendously forgettable.
When a cop movie is being watched it's always fun to try to figure out the plot being laid out by a master criminal. In this case, the leaps in logic from one point to the next follow a sort of Scooby Doo logic spurred on by the machinations of Isabella. "Well, we found this gum wrapper and this bullet casing and we had to run around naked in Hong Kong, so that means we need to go to Las Vegas." The complexity of the plot had me waiting for Zhang Ziyi to utter something about meddling kids at the end, except that they didn't allow Zhang Ziyi to talk at any point during the film. I understand that she doesn't exactly speak fluent English, but maybe some coaching would have been in order. Her talents as an actress are wasted here since she's used as a buttkicker to capitalize on her Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame.
Usually a bad sequel will tend to build on the strengths of the first film and then it will unravel in the second act and then finally implode during the third act. Rush Hour 2 certainly starts on the strengths of the first film (the interaction between its stars) but never gets the steam needed to actually implode. Instead, it just sort of whimpers off stage like a wounded dog.
Now would also be a good time to mention the racist dialogue of Tucker's Detective Carter. It was something easier to overlook in the first film despite its noticeable presence, but in Rush Hour 2 it becomes grating, annoying, and overburdening if not downright offensive. I'm hardly a member of the politically correct crowd (don't get me started on those people), but wasn't this shtick already old when Eddie Murphy was doing it years and years ago on "Saturday Night Live?" This is something that is greatly exacerbated by Tucker's high-pitched squealing, a byproduct of Tucker's involvement in any film that I've been complaining about since his role in The Fifth Element. At least when he appeared in Jackie Brown he met his demise after less than five minutes of screen time. That's about where I'm at with the tolerance level with this guy. There were a number of scenes where I wanted to reach for the mute button, an act made physically impossible by my friend's psychotic cat, Mushroom, who happened to be sitting on the remote. Not in the mood to apply a tourniquet to my hand, lose an eye, or develop any deep facial scars, I let it be.
New Line continues to be one of the best in regards to DVD presentation, and this is certainly no different for Rush Hour 2. The anamorphic transfer for this film is nearly flawless (as good as a non-digital film is going to get, anyway) and the sound is equally impressive. The 5.1 soundtrack makes terrific use of all channels and is immersive throughout the film, even in the dialogue-laden scenes.
New Line also continues to impress with the level of special features they include on a DVD. I'm not sure if the "Platinum Line" has now fully given way to "infinifilm," but the results are still the same even if the presentation is somewhat different (more on that in a moment). We start off with a filmmaker's commentary featuring director Brett Ratner and writer Jeff Nathanson that is kind of self-indulgent and not tremendously interesting. Since listening to the commentary made me see this movie more than once, I began to loathe the commentary as it progressed. New Line also includes the trailers, one of which shows most of the best parts of the movie (this would go under the "bad things" category and demonstrates in part what's wrong with Hollywood marketing), and we also get numerous "making of" types of spots. A visual effects deconstruction is provided for the bombing scene at the opening of the film, but this is really nothing spectacular in the sense that we've seen it before. "Making Magic Out of Mire" is a piece on director Brett Ratner, an energetic human being who greatly resembles Chris Penn. "Evolution of a Scene" documents how three of the large stunt sequences were conceived and pieced together, and "Fashion of Rush Hour 2" is pretty self-explanatory. The deleted scenes and outtakes are actually recommended, since the plot makes more sense with most of them included. Why several of these were deleted to cut the running time is simply beyond comprehension.
Special mention needs to be made of New Line's infinifilm gimmick. If you haven't seen or heard what this is yet, allow me to explain. A viewer can activate infinifilm on the special features menu. While active, at various parts of the movie, a prompt will appear on screen that will allow you to go to a video clip that documents something relevant about the scene you're watching. It's sort of like the "Follow the White Rabbit" feature that helped make The Matrix an exciting DVD. Some of the clips are interesting; some are not. To be honest, I'm not really sure that infinifilm reaches its full potential on Rush Hour 2. In comparison, it was much better utilized on films with social relevance like 15 Minutes or a deep historical background like Thirteen Days instead of on a shoddy fluff piece like Rush Hour 2. Personally, I'm not exactly enthralled with the feature to begin with since it breaks up the viewer's immersion into the film. If you're like me don't worry about missing out on anything since all of the film clips are included on the special features menu. Infinifilm is not a bad idea, it's just not something I particularly want and I blame that on my preference for linear thought.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
This is not to say that Rush Hour 2 doesn't have something of an upside to it. Jackie Chan, as usual, delivers a few "Holy !" moments that has become customary in his movies and keeps me coming back for more. If you've never seen a Jackie Chan movie, by all means do so—this guy is simply one of the most amazing stunt performers working anywhere today. Chan is also a talented fight coordinator and the extra effort that he puts in with his own work, as well as with helping the other actors overachieve, shows on screen. This continuously results in fun and inventive, but not over-the-top, fight scenes that have a natural fluidness to them. You won't see anything like you saw in The Matrix or in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, but you will enjoy it all the same.
On top of that, as much as I really hate to admit this, Chan and Tucker have a pretty good chemistry with each other. This is the only thing that keeps Tucker in the realm of "watchable," however. With a movie devoid of any plot, you're left with a movie that tries to get by on the talents of its principle actors and fails miserable under its own weight. Jackie Chan is good, but he's not that good.
If you enjoyed the first Rush Hour there might be a possibility that you'll enjoy Rush Hour 2, but somehow I doubt it. Personally, I'd rather have someone take a cheese grater to my forehead than watch this one again. I understand Rush Hour 3 is in the works. Hopefully lessons have been learned from this stinker. If you're curious about Jackie Chan then I'd recommend the first Rush Hour or maybe Rumble In The Bronx for a good, accessible idea of what he's capable of.
The filmmakers, the actors and studio are found to be in contempt of this court for making such a heinous and unlikable sequel in quest of the almighty dollar. I order the bailiff to clear the courtroom. New Line Studios is found not guilty of at least making a nice DVD presentation, but is infinifilm really necessary here?
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Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
• Filmmakers' Commentary
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