Rush Hour
Genre: Action/Adventure, Comedy
Running Time: 1 hr. 38 min.
Release Date: September 18, 1998
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of action/violence and shootings, and for language.
Director: Brett Ratner
Actors: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Christopher Penn, Elizabeth Peña
"In this clashing battle of East meets West, culture, society, and ethnicity make for an easy barrage of jokes and gags."
An exciting blend of action and comedy, Rush Hour makes use of Jackie Chan’s signature comedic kung fu as well as Chris Tucker’s loud-mouthed, fast-paced blabbering. A highly entertaining film with just enough story to keep audiences interested while being humored and amazed by the jokes and martial arts, Brett Ratner’s distinct style makes Rush Hour a must see, especially considering the third in the franchise is about to be released.

Hong Kong emissary Han (Tzi Ma) comes to America for diplomatic business only to discover a terrifying welcome as his young daughter Soo Yung (Julia Hsu) is kidnapped. Held for ransom by a large underground criminal organization, headed by the mysterious and secretive Juntao, little Soo Yung’s only hope is longtime family friend and Hong Kong Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan). But in the states the FBI doesn’t want a foreigner to interfere with their operations, and so deploy LAPD goofball officer James Carter (Chris Tucker). Assigned to distract Lee and keep him away from solving the actual case, the two form an unlikely bond and set out to foil the conspirative plot of the Juntao crime syndicate.

In this clashing battle of East meets West, culture, society, and ethnicity make for an easy barrage of jokes and gags. From taking Lee to Chinatown so he doesn’t feel so foreign, to a brawl in a bar caused by Lee attempting to mimic racial slang, the tactic is a bit overused but still consistently fresh due to its energetic leads and creative ensuing fight sequences. And as these buddy cop films often go, neither the conspiring Hong Kong gang nor the shady characters Carter frequently misuses in the name of the law are quite as much of an obstacle as learning to trust each other and the blind prejudices of those unwilling to trust in them. But it’s all done in an overtly comic fashion, so political correctness is far from an issue.

Jackie Chan plays his typical all-around crime fighting good guy and is a pleasure to watch. Scripted to be serious in the right places yet also appropriately silly, he is the perfect composed straight man to Tucker’s joker. Chan also demonstrates his usual eye-popping stunts and martial arts skills that easily impress, but the violence rarely breaches family-friendliness. His fighting style almost always incorporates props and tones down the violent nature of hand-to-hand combat by adding humorous slapstick elements to the large-scale, well-choreographed brawls.

Chris Tucker is another matter entirely. Almost solely comic relief, you’ll either love him or hate him; presumably there is no middle ground, though perhaps this works to intensify Chan’s frustration and the bridge he must gap to befriend the cantankerous LA cop. His constant obnoxious, often foul-mouthed ramblings are humorous, if only in their absurdity, and using cheap tricks and corrupt police tactics, he appears morally lax (though he does opt for the right decision when it comes to the truly important matters). Borrowing style from Eddie Murphy’s Beverly Hills Cop, Tucker’s mannerisms and expressions often out-stage his jabbering dialogue. In comic cinematic fashion, and as a tagline for the film, the only thing faster than Jackie Chan’s fists is Tucker’s never-resting mouth.

The fish-out-of-water theme merged with the buddy cop genre work to create a supremely enjoyable action flick, and while Tucker’s nonstop griping may begin to grate the nerves at times, it serves to amplify the mismatched duo and the comedic chemistry of the polar opposite lawmen. Such a well-balanced blend of comedy and action, combined with a likeably argumentative pair of protagonists, makes Rush Hour a triumphant success. And as with all of Chan’s endearing action films, the blooper reel that runs through the credits never ceases to lose its appeal.

- The Massie Twins


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