Rush Hour (1998)
“They come from different cultures. But on a case this big, they speak the same language.”
Rush Hour (1998)
Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Ken Leung
Synopsis: Two cops team up to the kidnapped daughter of a Chinese consul.
There’s a definite 48 Hrs vibe going on with Brett Ratner’s 1998 smash-hit action-comedy, Rush Hour. A breakneck pace pauses just long enough for the antagonistic relationship between a mismatched couple to transform by degrees into one of mutual respect as they exchange insults on their way to locating the kidnapped daughter of a Chinese consul in Los Angeles. Its set-up is strictly formulaic, but Rush Hour succeeds thanks to a funny, punchy screenplay from Jim Kouf and Ross LaManna, and potent chemistry between Chris Tucker (Silver Linings Playbook) and Jackie Chan (Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, New Police Story). It helps that, as a double act, the two men possess the requisite disparity in size and psychological make-up: Tucker is a lean and lanky loudmouth with bulletproof confidence and an inability to recognise dangerous situations, while Chan is short and compact and has the unassuming manner of a man who sees no need to boast about his talents.
This initially unhappy partnership is forged when the Consul (Tzi Ma – Chain Reaction, The Ladykillers) insists over the objections of FBI agent Whitney (Rex Linn – After the Sunset, Django Unchained) that at least one Chinese detective participates in the hunt for his daughter. He sends for top Hong Kong detective Lee, who recently played a major part in recovering a priceless haul of Chinese art treasures. However, Whitney, not wanting an outsider getting in the way of his operation, calls on Captain Diel (Philip Baker Hall – Enemy of the State, 50/50) of the LAPD to provide an officer to babysit Lee. Diel unhesitatingly selects Carter, a maverick cop who refuses to work with a partner. Needless to say, Carter isn’t too thrilled about the assignment – and neither is Lee, when he realises that Carter’s real mission is to prevent him from doing the job he’s flown all the way to America to do.
It has to be said that Tucker is something of an acquired taste, and that those who are turned-off by loud black men spraying high-pitched jive talk around at a thousand words a minute might do well to look elsewhere for their entertainment. He looks like a young – but slimmer – Eddie Murphy, and sounds like Will Smith on helium, but has a cartoonish style all his own. Chan avoids being eclipsed by Tucker’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach thanks not only to not being reduced to a straight man but to peerless stunt work and lightning-fast fight moves. Although well into his forties when Rush Hour was filmed, Chan possesses a litheness and flexibility men half his age would do well to emulate. Not only that, he makes every fight – or frantic flight from the bad guys look like fun.
Although Rush Hour breaks no new ground in a genre that was already over-stuffed by the late 1990s, it’s elevated above most of its contemporaries by the humorous interplay between its likeable protagonists, and breathless action sequences directed with a brisk sureness by the 29-year-old Ratner, who had already directed Tucker in the previous year’s Money Talks. Rush Hour might be cinematic bubble gum, but it’s gum that holds its flavour – so much, in fact, that, eighteen years after the first movie, there’s talk of a fourth entry in the series.
(Reviewed 24th March 2016)
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