The Rush Hour series, up to this point, is essentially cliche-riddled buddy cop fare that, whilst obnoxious to the point of lunacy (mostly thanks to the insufferable Chris Tucker), is actually considerably more enjoyable than you’d expect. The action scenes are thrilling, the chemistry between the two leads authentic, and overall, these films are just 85 minutes of silly fun.
I was intrigued at the bad press the third film has received, and more to the point, I had to disagree with the majority of the critical opinion. Whilst the third entry into this series is ridiculous, and shows sure signs of an already formulaic series wearing thin, it is no-less overblown and crazy than the previous two instalments, and just as fun
Ratner wastes no time at all in reminding us just how irritating Chris Tucker’s James Carter can be, his usual high-pitched shrieking piercing our ear drums mere seconds into this film. I couldn’t help but laugh, though, as when two white women are involved in a car crash with a black man, Carter is very quick to both lambast the white women, and ensure that the black driver is fine (and subsequently attempt to date the white women). Jokes like this are rudimentary and unsubtle, but I laughed at the absurdity of it – Tucker is so flagrantly annoying, and if he’s aware of this, then in some twisted sense, he’s a genius.
The premise is much the same as previously with a few variables reworked – Carter is now a traffic cop, and Lee (Chan) a bodyguard to Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma, returning from the first film). It’s not long before an attempt is made on Han’s life (which is narrowly unsuccessful), and soon enough, Lee is once again running at full speed, jumping around like, as John McClane would say, a “hamster”, performing death-defying stunts. Lee is stultified to discover the assassin to be his godbrother, and mere seconds before he’s about to bite the bullet, he’s saved by Carter, throwing the two back into an uncomfortable partnership (given how the two haven’t spoken in 3 years due to Carter wounding Lee’s then-girlfriend). In short, it’s much the same as before, but that need not be to the film’s detriment, namely as it pertains to the outrageous stunt-work and fight choreography, which is as fresh, fun and visually-astounding as ever
Soon enough, Ambassador Han’s rather fetching daughter shows up, now a fully grown woman (played by a different actress from the first film, I add), and it’s not difficult to guess that she’ll become the damsel-in-distress by the film’s climax. Furthermore, either by means of consummate professionalism and respect, or by means of their libido (I’m sure you can work out which is which), Lee and Carter make a promise to her to capture those complicit in her father’s shooting. As you can see, it’s cliche, cliche, cliceh.
Lee and Carter investigate a number of fruitless threads (including a pretty funny incident at a martial arts studio with the much-advertised “Yu?” gag, and an appearance by basketball giant Sun Ming Ming), and are beset upon by a gang of assassins (at which point we discover that Han’s daughter is predictably quite the adept fighter herself). Whist interrogating one of the assassins, they discover that he is a French-speaking Asian (so at least the film usurps one stereotype rather than seeking to reinforce them all), and it’s not long before Lee and Carter jet off to Paris to investigate further, a destination which, given the running time, took a little too long to get to.
I find it incumbent at this point to make comment on the surprising appearances from Max Von Sydow and Roman Polanski in Rush Hour 3. If you were to ask me “Guess which two men, one a famous actor, and one a famous and a highly controversial director, had minor appearances in Rush Hour 3?”, my answer would have been along the lines of Will Smith or Jet Li, and as it pertains to the latter, probably Eli Roth or someone. Sydow’s ever-recognisable voice is pleasant to hear as always, and he plays a more involved role than you might expect, something which I shan’t give away. Polanski’s role as a French police inspector is more or less a cameo, and merely something for film aficionados to feel smug about when they spot him.
Insane acrobatics, femme fatale characters and a host of other quirky personalities aside, perhaps the most impressive, and certainly the most memorable (for myself, at least) portion of the film was the scintillating, if disappointingly brief car-chase, which exhibits a number of ridiculously over-the-top wheel stunts and balancing acts. It was extremely fun, and given the absurd nature of the chase, quite original also.
After what loosely resembles a plot plays out, we get to our finale – there’s the aforementioned damsel-in-distress, the well-meaning but clumsy protagonists, and the evil enemy, who just happens to have this familial tie to Lee. Everything converges atop the Eiffel Tower, where an impressively-shot standoff takes place, making it all the more unfortunate that this set-piece crumbles in its closing moments. We have an uncharacteristically redemptive villain in his final moments, and an unnecessary, and at times crude-looking use of CGI that caused me to step back and think to myself “Wait, this is a film”. Considering this film is pure escapism, for it to invite feelings such as that is not encouraging. Also, after one final additional conflict, one final clich is forced down our throats – that “let’s fire a gun and not show who has been shot for a few seconds” technique that is criminally overused in Hollywood.
Ultimately, everything ties up nicely and an amusing gag reel accompanies the credits, and that’s a rap. Despite my recent dislike for Ratner over his comments on critics and moreover, his views on arty films (or “pretentious arty films” as he called them), and whilst this does absolutely nothing new for an already pretty bloated genre, the set pieces are delightfully well-made and at times the film can be quite funny. I just hope that Ratner and company aren’t blinded by the green and have the good sense to let sleeping dogs lie in regard to this series.