Starring Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Max von Sydow, Hiroyuki Sanada, Yvan Attal, Yuki Kudo, Noémie Lenoir, Zhang Jing-Chu, Tzi Ma, Dana Ivey, Sun Ming-Ming, Roman Polanski
Directed by Brett Ratner
Expectations: Fairly low. I feel confident I’ll enjoy it, though.
The Rush Hour films are made to entertain. None of them are great, but they carry a certain charm. Jackie is always a joy in any form, and I like what Chris Tucker brings to the table. The two have an effervescent chemistry perfect for the age-old buddy cop premise. It’s just that by the time we get to Rush Hour 3, that’s about all we have to hang our enjoyment on. For me, this was enough to make the movie fly by in a haze of dumb jokes, action and entertainment, but I imagine others would be less forgiving.
The story they have the boys propping up this time will be relatively familiar if you’ve seen Rush Hour. Since this is Rush Hour 3, we know a basic formula has been established, but this is more than that. It’s certainly an odd choice to make from a screenwriting standpoint. I appreciate the idea to bring back characters from the original film, such as Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) and his now-grown daughter Soo Yung (Zhang Jing-Chu). But it also mirrors the original film’s story in a lot of painfully obvious ways, to the point that I had figured out one of the late-film “Oh, shit!” twists by the time the opening scene was over. I understand wanting to bring the series back to where it started (and was successful), but this is a bit too close, no? It makes the film feel like the product it is, and this seriously hampers its ability to resonate with its audience.
Anyway, in the opening scene the triads are declared the largest and strongest criminal organization in the world. Ambassador Han gives a speech on the subject in front of many world leaders, and he talks of finally having a key to unraveling their criminal network. The triads have other plans, though, attempting to assassinate the ambassador mid-speech with a high-powered rifle. Jackie springs to action, but when he eventually catches up to the shooter, he knows the man and lets him go. One thing leads to another and our buddy cops are off to Paris to figure out the mystery on their own. I understand that this plot doesn’t sound like Rush Hour, but structurally it hits many of the same beats and leads the characters into similar situations.
The action is well-done, but it suffers from a couple of major faults. First, as with all the films in this series, the editing is just atrocious. It neither works with or capitalizes on Jackie’s choreography, and the camerawork is equally lame. Brett Ratner may be a huge Jackie fan, and he may get along well with the film’s cast, but he has yet to deliver anything resembling action greatness with these movies. This only further compounds the series’ need to diminish Jackie to allow Chris Tucker to be useful within the action. On top of this, there just isn’t much of any action that stands out as memorable, except for the sword fight between Jackie and genre-great Hiroyuki Sanada (which is only great when Ratner allows us to see what’s going on — for instance, the nicely posed shot to the right is only on-screen for a fraction of a second).
The other major fault is the addition of CG to the mix. This allows them to artificially “enhance” the danger of stunts (such as a knife thrown at Jackie), without also enhancing the risk to his life. The insurance companies love it, I’m sure, but it just takes me out of the scene immediately. The entire finale suffers from this, too, where the fight is supposedly staged at a great height, but is actually being safely performed in front of a green screen. This is a major problem with CG in general — raising the danger to the level of sheer unbelievable lunacy — and it’s what makes me hesitant to see most modern action films. The worlds of film and video games are converging in the worst of ways.
Rush Hour 3 is easily the worst of the three films. I still had fun with it because I enjoy the leads’ chemistry, but this is at or near the bottom of the list for Jackie films I am excited to re-visit.
Next up in this chronological journey through the films of Jackie Chan is The Forbidden Kingdom! Haven’t seen it since the theater… looking forward to revisiting Jet Li’s Monkey King. See ya then!