Reel Opinions

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Rush Hour 3

If there was ever a textbook example of a cash-in, hopelessly tired sequel, it would be Rush Hour 3. While the previous two films weren't exactly classics, they had a lot more life than this. Director Brett Ratner (X-Men 3: The Last Stand) is back, as are the two lead stars, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. And yet, everyone seems to just be here because the studio wanted another movie, not because they want to be there. The humor and chemistry is forced and worn, and everybody looks like they wish they were somewhere else. Not that I blame them, obviously, but Rush Hour 3 is just a pathetic excuse to milk a cash cow that is long past its prime one last time.

Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) have apparently gone their separate ways as the film opens. The dialogue mentions that a rift appeared between them because of a woman, but not much information is given. Carter is now working as a traffic cop (although why a homicide detective would be working as a traffic cop is anyone's guess), and Lee is currently assigned with protecting a Chinese diplomat while he is visiting L.A. to give a speech that holds top secret information on a world-wide crime syndicate. The diplomat is shot by an assassin named Kenji (Hiroyuki Sonada), whom it is eventually revealed that Lee has a past with. Carter eventually gets involved, and the two former friends and partners are forced to work together again when they promise the diplomat's daughter, Soo Yung (Zhang Jingchu) that they will track down the man who tried to kill her father. They track down Kenji to France, where they discover that the crime syndicate goes a lot deeper than they could ever imagined. They're chased down by various assailants, get anal raped by a French police detective (played by filmmaker Roman Polanski in a bizarre cameo), they have repeated run-ins with a snooty French cab driver who initially hates Americans, but learns to like them when he discovers they can kill others for no reason, and go through the same kind of friendly bickering that we've heard all before in the last two films, only not as lively or funny.

That's the best way I can describe Rush Hour 3. It's everything you've come to expect, only less. Tucker and Chan are back playing their cultural and racial odd couple act, but there's something strained and forced about it here. Chan looks tired and constantly seems to be waiting for the scene to be over with so he can cash his paycheck. Tucker at least tries, but very few of the jokes he lets fly with his trademarked high pitched motor mouth line delivery actually hit with any degree of certainty. You sometimes wondered if anyone involved was interested in anything rather than a pay day, especially concerning the plot. Was this storyline even scripted, or did they just make it up as they went along? I know the synopsis above makes it sound like a plot-driven movie, but to tell the truth, the plot is nearly incoherent with people popping in and out of the story with little to no reason. Everyone basically exists either to fight the two heroes, or for Chris Tucker to rant at and crack jokes at. This seemingly all powerful criminal empire is barely even touched upon, and its members are usually only glanced at for one scene, and then disappear. There's one villain who is identified only as "Dragon Lady" in the credits, and is played by the talented Japanese actress, Youki Kudoh, who was previously seen in films such as Snow Falling on Cedars and Memoirs of a Geisha. She is an assassin working for the syndicate trying to kill the two detectives, and although she constantly shows promise, the movie never does anything with her or develop her as anything other than a faceless drone to throw knives at Jackie Chan during random action scenes. It's a waste of her considerable talent, and makes me wonder if a majority of her role was left on the cutting room floor, since her name appears fairly early in the opening credits, but her final role is restricted to barely a cameo.

Her character is not the only victim of this screenplay that reads like a first draft that somehow wound up being filmed. The movie races forward from scene to scene with little rhyme or reason. It never stops to let characters say more than two words, unless it's a one-liner or a zinger. It also never stops to develop even the slightest bit of characterization. Lee and Carter were not exactly deep and complex in the previous entries, but here, they are just hollow shells of their former selves. We learn early on that they've had a falling out while visiting New York together a couple years ago, but it is barely touched on, and the emotional wounds that these two men share is solved in a simple and cheesy music montage that I couldn't tell if it was supposed to be a joke or taken seriously. So, the jokes aren't as fresh or funny, and the characters are cheap imitations of the ones we've come to know. How's the action? Well, I will say this, it's a sad day when I start seeing Jackie Chan being replaced by an obvious stunt double, or sometimes CG trickery for a lot of his stunts. The guy's acting performance isn't the only thing tired, he just looks exhausted in general. While he still has some life during his action scenes, he's a far cry from what he once was, and doesn't even seem to be enjoying himself. Even the outtakes are made up mostly of Chan blowing his lines, instead of the failed stunts we've come to expect. The most impressive action sequence in the film is set at the Eiffel Tower, and doesn't even come until the last 15 minutes or so, never mind the fact that it makes very little sense to begin with. If you were the mysterious head of a powerful secret crime organization, would you stage a fight and hostage situation in the city's most famous tourist attraction with everyone watching?
I could talk about the film's horrible waste of Max Von Sydow's acting talents, or when Chris Tucker and an old Asian man do an unfunny take on the classic "Who's on First" routine, but why bother? I think I've made my point clear. No one cared about making Rush Hour 3 a good movie, and their lack of effort is right up there on the screen for everyone to see. To its credit, the movie runs by in a blink of an eye and doesn't waste too much of our time. Still, even 90 minutes of watching two actors cashing a check is too long. Even as mindless popcorn entertainment, Rush Hour 3 is uninspired, and comes across as a waste of time for everyone involved and those unfortunate enough to pay to see it.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Powered by Blogger