Jackie Chan as Chief Inspector Lee
Chris Tucker as Detective James Carter
Hiroyuki Sanada as Kenji
Noémie Lenoir as Genevieve
Max von Sydow as Varden Reynard
Yvan Attal as George
Tzi Ma as Consul Han
Jingchu Zhang as Soo Yung
Roman Polanski as Detective Revi
If I stop and really think about it, I could probably come up with a film series in less need of another sequel than the “Rush Hour” franchise, but it would take some time. We could probably do without any more “Baby Geniuses” films.
In 1998 when the first “Rush Hour” premiered, Jackie Chan was finally making good on the promise of 20 years, finally breaking out of the cult status he’d built up over the years and into the mainstream with the patented brand of bravura martial arts-cum-slapstick routines he’d been working on since “Drunken Master.” Paired off with Chris Tucker’s relentless Eddie Murphy impersonation, it was fairly entertaining and only partially mindless. It’s been six years since the last “Rush Hour” film, however, and the novelty has worn off. And as is readily apparent less than five minutes in, novelty is about all “Rush Hour” has ever had going for it.
Inspector Lee’s (Jackie Chan) old boss, Consul Han (Tzi Ma), is attacked just as he is about to reveal information on the Triad gangs that are apparently taking over Europe. A couple of decently executed but pointless scenes later, and Lee, reunited with fast talking Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) realize they have to go to Paris to find Han’s source, and they’ve got to hurry before Lee’s evil foster brother and whoa, hold on, I’ve got to stop right there before my brains start to leak out of my ears. “Rush Hour 3” takes it’s plot lock, stock and barrel from the original “Rush Hour” except for the parts it takes from “Rush Hour 2.”
Originality isn’t usually one of the chief aims of a sequel, it’s more about repeating the entertaining parts of the previous installments, maybe upping the ante a little, but usually in as safe and comfortable a manner as possible, and the “Rush Hour” films haven’t ever really been about their stories anyway. Those are just convenient excuses to give Chan and Tucker a reason to do their thing, but “Rush Hour 3” has taken that mindset to all new metatextual levels. The idea seems to be that Chan and Tucker are so inherently entertaining that they merely need to be on screen and the rest will take care of itself. Needless to say, it doesn’t.
It plays as if director Brett Ratner (“X-Men: The Last Stand”) and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson (“Catch Me If You Can”) were holed up in his hotel room every night trying to figure out what they would be shooting the next day. The results are scenes that don’t connect together or serve any sort of point beyond giving Chan and, especially, Tucker room to mug in. Watch as they serenade each other in a Paris nightspot!! Thrill as they’re beaten up by a giant!! Why? Who knows? Who cares? Certainly not the characters, who bounce around from place to place for no other reason than they must in order to keep things rolling. Things like motivation and logic are beneath the notice of Ratner and his cohorts.
Chan plays the same character he’s played, not just in the previous “Rush Hour” films, but in ever film he’s ever made, and that goes double for Tucker, who is often best taken in small doses. There are a few decent actors in the supporting cast who try to do the best with what they’ve got French actress Noémie Lenoir is a vision and really does give it her best, but she’s wasting her time. Particularly telling is the fact that, despite the decent support, it’s Chan that gives the best performance in the film, and mostly by default.
Despite what’s come before it, the climax in and around the Eiffel Tower is still fairly exciting, with some excellent stunt work and even some actual character empathy, just when it seemed all hope was lost. It’s too little, too late, but it might be just enough to convince people they’ve seen a better movie than they have.
I hate to use the phrase, “they’re only in it for the money,” but if any sequel ever exemplified that ethos, it’s this one. Ultimately, “Rush Hour 3” is a one trick pony whose day has long since passed.