Film Review: Rush Hour 3

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Because Jackie Chan’s agent demanded it! Nine years after the original’s surprise success as a late summer release, and six years after the vastly improved sequel, Chan re-teams with fluent English sidekick Chris Tucker and director Brett Ratner for Rush Hour 3, one of the more uncalled for sequels of all time.

The pointlessness of the endeavor is perhaps most notable in the awkward attempts to evoke nostalgia for the previous films, with the pair reciting lines and breaking into dance sequences that result in a sense of vague familiarity rather than a burst of recognition (No crickets could be heard during the scenes at the preview screening I attended; I could only assume that it was because the crickets, like the otherwise generous audience, weren’t sure what they were looking at during these scenes and thus weren’t sure how to respond).

A rather complicated story seems to have occurred between Rush Hours 2 and 3, and we don’t even get the benefit of a synopsizing crawl like at the beginning of the Star Wars flicks. Apparently, Chan’s Inspector Lee hooked up with Roselyn Sanchez’s character from the last movie, only Tucker’s Detective Carter shot her in the neck, resulting in temporary loss of motor functions and…their break up…? Or something?

Anyway, when the film opens, the pair of brothers from other mothers are no longer feeling particularly fraternal towards one another, but the demands of a new film mixing elements of the first (Tzi Ma’s Consul Han, his daughter getting kidnapped again) and second (a battle with the Chinese Triads, a dragon lady assassin listed in the credits simply “Dragon Lady”) provide them with the means to slowly reconcile.

The plot, which sends Carter and Lee from an attempted assassination in L.A. to Paris to find a list of the names of the Triad crime bosses, isn’t exactly important, or even fully formed. The film itself consists merely of a few winning action scenes, a few less-winning ones repeated form previous films and plenty of Saturday Night Live-style comedy routines placed side by side.

I actually enjoyed some of these quite a bit, particularly the conversion of a snotty French cab driver that refuses to drive Americans because they are so violent into a thrill-seeking would-be action hero. “The guns…the shooting,” he exclaims after his first car chase, “Finally I know what it means to be an American!”

But for every one of those scenes, there’s a poodle peeing on a character for no reason, or Tucker telling Lee he’s so uptight because “There’s too much rice in your diet, you’re constipated.”

As good and as bad as the individual scenes may be, there’s nothing that holds them together, and so there’s no real momentum. Rush Hour 3 is much, much less than the sum of it’s parts.

Not that its parts are all that great, anyway.

Tucker, who has only appeared in Rush Hour in the past ten years, has a funny voice which he exploits well, so that just about anything he says, regardless of whether it’s funny or not, at least sounds funny.

Chan, who’s starting to look his age and is clearly slowing down a bit, is still amazing to watch, even in these shorter bursts of action, but too often he’s made the butt of cringe inducing jokes, and he seems to be all but completely wasted in this movie.

Not that he’s alone on that score. French model actress Noémie Lenoir, Julie Depardieu and Max von Sydow similarly get too little to do, and a rare Roman Polanski appearance is wasted on a butt joke.

With six years to work on this thing, you’d think Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson could have managed a more polished product.

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