Review: Rush Hour 3

Rush Hour 3, the latest in the line of summer 2007 sequels can neatly and efficiently be reviewed in one single word – redundant.

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker’s latest pairing isn’t so much the third installment of the Rush Hour franchise as much as it is the aftermath of unfunny and boring recycled parts hastily configured from a basket of clichés and worn-out comedy routines.

The convoluted plot once again pairs Chief Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective James Carter (Tucker) following the failed assassination of a Chinese diplomat who seeks to – once again – eradicate the Chinese triads. Through some investigation, the duo finds itself in Paris, apparently a nerve-center of the Chinese crime organization. Somehow, a bureaucrat named Reynard (Max von Sydow) and Inspector Lee’s brother Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada) are also involved, though it’s not entirely clear how their roles fit in with the main storyline.

Continuing in the tradition of its two predecessors, the movie weaves in and out between action sequences with Inspector Lee risking life and limb, jumping, contorting and crouching between the ledges of buildings and Detective Carter screaming racial epitaphs and slurs. While Rush Hour was never confused with rolling-on-the-floor funny, the pairing of Chan and Tucker in the 1998 version was at least somewhat novel. Ten years later, and Tucker’s dialogue still consists mostly of racially-charged rants on the differences between Africans and Asians. If it didn’t wear out its welcome in the second movie, it’s certainly not going to garner many laughs now.

That isn’t to say the movie doesn’t have its moments. Yvan Attal plays a French taxicab driver with a grumpy slant toward Americans, who changes his tune – and his baseball cap – by movie’s end. Lee and Carter each end up at a showgirl burlesque and in the course of protecting a valuable triad secret, perform a humorous musical duet. The funniest moments comes when the movie parodies Abbot and Costello “Who’s on first” routine, replacing “Who” and “I don’t know” with a “Yu” and “Mee”. Still, while it was worth of a couple of chuckles, it will certainly never be confused for anything cutting-edge funny.

And in there lies the problem with the movie. Nothing is new. Nothing attempts to push the envelope. We’re given exactly what we’ve seen in the past two go-arounds. At the very least director Brett Ratner could have done was changed the exposition of Carter’s character.
In all three movies, Carter begins the story by bungling an assignment which subsequently lands him in the doghouse. Then, by the grace of Inspector Lee, he ascends to the level of an international investigator, going toe-to-toe with international crime lords. While the Rush Hour franchise doesn’t attempt to take itself seriously, it should at least try to hang on to some semblance of reality.

In the movie’s opening moments, Carter hijacks a civilian vehicle, and – with the civilians still in it – pursues a criminal, eventually destroying the car. And Carter’s punishment? Well, perhaps punishment isn’t the right word to use there. For his efforts, he’s actually reinstated as a detective and allowed to travel to Paris to pursue his investigation. I doubt even Dick Tracy would have been afforded such liberties.

It’s also disappointing to see the deterioration of Chan. It’s like we’re watching Michael Jordan play for the Wizards or Emmitt Smith in a Cardinals uniform. Chan, who turned 53 this year, is still able to bounce off walls and get up and down sides of buildings. But his stunts aren’t nearly as dangerous and the action isn’t nearly as intense. Actually, some of his stunts aren’t even his, because he’s given way to stunt-doubles and computer graphics. As a result, the climactic Eiffel Tower sequence comes off as disposable and unexciting in the end. Chan’s aging is particularly evident in the outtakes. In the first two Rush Hours, Chan would invariable break a foot or suffer some other rattling injury. In this installment, the outtakes are mostly of Chan fumbling his lines.

I can only hope that this is the last in the Rush Hour franchise. With Chan’s age and Tucker’s irritability factor, there’s a better-than-good chance my wish will come through. In the end, the first two Rush Hours were mediocre, and Rush Hour 3 falls under the already low standard.

Rating: **

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