"Rush Hour 3" is more of the same, only better. Its predecessors, 1998's "Rush Hour" and 2001's "Rush Hour 2
," were formulaic action-comedies of the buddy cop mold. They had their moments in both departmentssome comic inspiration and some well-filmed fight scenes, respectivelybut what they lacked was momentum and anything truly worth remembering. In other words, they were totally forgettable. With "Rush Hour 3," returning director Brett Ratner (2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand
") and perfectly mismatched leads Chris Tucker (his first movie in six years) and Jackie Chan (2003's "The Medallion
") have swifter, funnier material to work with and the twinkling, picturesque setting of Paris to be let loose in. It's all still very slight, but it's nevertheless the most entertaining of the trilogy.
The plot doesn't make much sense and is almost impossible to follow. It doesn't matter. As the film's crackerjack set-pieces played out, I found myself purposefully tuning out the story and concentrating on what mattered: the remarkably right chemistry between motormouth wisecracker Chris Tucker and ideal straight man/stunt extraordinaire Jackie Chan. They reprise their roles as LAPD Detective James Carter and Chief Inspector Lee, partners who travel to Paris, France, to track down the underground Chinese Triad organization. They are wanted for the attempted assassination of Chinese Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) and are now after his grown daughter, Soo Yung (Zhang Jingchu), and anyone else who gets in their way. As Carter and Lee stick out like sore thumbs in their foreign surroundings, their mission is complicated by a sticky past Lee shares with head baddie Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada) and a future Carter wouldn't mind sharing with femme fatale
Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir).
"Rush Hour 3" is goofy, ridiculous, far-fetched, politically-incorrect, and even anti-American in the way French cab driver George (Yvan Attal) views the U.S. as a breeding ground for killers and war mongers. Some of the material might push buttonsIranians probably won't be pleased by Carter's description of them as widespread terroristsbut director Brett Ratner and screenwriters Jeff Nathanson (2004's "The Last Shot
") and Ross LaManna have done a nice job of giving the jokes and subject matter an "all-in-good-fun" vibe. From a daring cab-and-motorcycle chase through the streets of Paris, to a scene where a nun (Dana Ivey) translates back and forth the decidedly un-Christian provocations between a French-speaking Triad member and English-speaking Lee and Carter, to a humorously extreme run-in with a giant-sized martial arts instructor, to, of all things, an onstage musical number between Carter and Lee, the film has a high joke-to-laugh rate.
What gives "Rush Hour 3" the added punch it needs to be worth recommending is the dynamite pairing of Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, by now wholly comfortable and free with each other. It's hard to say how much of what they say and do is scripted and how much is ad-libbed, but they have superb comedic timing and an amiable camaraderie. Tucker, whose acting career of the last ten years has virtually consisted of the three "Rush Hour" pictures, is great with a one-liner and much more naturally funny than comparable performers Eddie Murphy and Martin Lawrence. He should work more often than he does. Chan, meanwhile, is a master at deadpan deliveries and reaction shots, and is, indeed, the yang to Tucker's yin.
The remainder of the cast are proficient in obligatory roleswhat are veterans like Max von Sydow, as president of the World Criminal Court, and filmmaker Roman Polanski, as a rough-and-tumble French officer, doing here?but Noemie Lenoir (2004's "After the Sunset
") is appropriately eye-catching as the sultry and possibly dangerous Genevieve. As for Youki Kudoh (2005's "Memoirs of a Geisha
"), as knife-throwing female villain Jasmine, her best moment is one of her last. "Want to know a secret?" she asks Carter as she prepares to move into a talky monologue about her master plan. "No," Carter bluntly replies, and cuts her off before she has time to say anything else.
The third-act of "Rush Hour 3," set amid the Eiffel Tower, is a thrilling elongated action sequence that incorporates a number of awe-inspiring moments, some exciting fight choreography, and convincing special effects. It's an example of stylistic craftsmanship over substance, and that's all one can really ask for. Hoity-toity audience members in search of a movie that will give them something deep to think about afterwards will be at a loss with "Rush Hour 3." If one sits back and takes it for what it is, howevera silly, good-natured, 90-minute popcorn flickthe film more than fits the bill.