a critiQal film review Rush Hour (1998)

Plot: A Chinese diplomat's daughter has been kidnapped. LAPD Detective Carter (Tucker) is attached to the FBI for this case with a very special assignment: keep visiting Chinese police detective Lee (Chan) as far from the case as possible. Feeling used, Carter decides he's going to break this thing wide open.

619 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 5s)
  • ...Tucker and Chan, unlike most buddy-cop duos, seem to have an off-screen friendship, and that translates to fun on-screen.

With all the sequels planned for release this summer, I figured it was about time to go back and take a look at what films preceded these big summer 2007 hits. Picking at random, I decided to start with Rush Hour.

With Rush Hour 3 (2007) hitting theaters this summer, I wanted to go back and refresh my memory a bit. What was it that I liked about this film that would make me want to go back for thirds? Was it this film, or its sequel, Rush Hour 2 (2001) that really keeps me wanting more of the Jackie Chan/Chris Tucker duo? And what was actually so funny about Chris Tucker anyway? With these questions in mind, I sat down to watch Rush Hour once more.

Jackie Chan, as usual, does a good job with the action in Rush Hour, using his combination of planning and rehearsal to bring off crazy stunts with ease. His characters usually stumble into fight scenes, and use whatever is at hand to make their way through – a chair, a pool cue, even a table. He makes fight scenes with a sense of humor – sure, the action is intense, but the audience finds itself laughing at the fools he’s making of others. It’s never about the pain, it’s more about the fun – all the adrenaline, none of the guilt.

Unsurprisingly, this fun shows through when Jackie teams with a slightly goofy partner, whether it be Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon or Chris Tucker in Rush Hour. The partner, while being funny in their own right, helps to enhance Jackie’s sense of humor, evoking more comedy from Jackie almost without even trying.

Chris Tucker, while still slightly annoying when his voice hits that higher pitch, does a good job of not only backing Chan up but helping make his character a separate entity in Rush Hour. Too many buddy-cop movies rely on one of the team being the highlight reel while the other is the down-to-earth realist (ala Lethal Weapon (1987)). While Chan is more of the straight guy to Tucker’s funnyman, both are allowed to showcase other sides of their personality, creating more for each of them than just the simple one-dimensional characters they originally appear to be.

A lot of that is probably due to a good script and good directing. Director Brett Ratner, who has since gone on to movies like Red Dragon (2002) and X-Men: The Last Stand (2006), does a good job of keeping the camera focused on those two, but manages to keep the plot of Rush Hour involved. While the tendency of buddy-cop movies is to have a plot as more of a means to pull the two cops together, Brett manages to at least keep the plot (revolving around the kidnapping of a little girl) never far from the minds of the characters, even in scenes where they are letting loose a little.

Tucker and Chan are really what makes Rush Hour worth watching over and over. Their off-screen friendship seems self-evident – or Tucker is a lot better actor than he’s given credit for. That friendship translates well onto the big screen, creating a lot of fun moments for the audience – and for the actors themselves. These two, more than most buddy-cop stars, look like they are truly enjoying themselves.

For those of you who thought the Lethal Weapon (1987) films were funny but a bit dark, Rush Hour may be just what you’re looking for. Gone is most of the darkness, replaced by a great deal of light humor – and Tucker’s never-closing mouth. If you passed this one by before, go back and take a look, and you’ll understand why people can’t seem to get enough of this duo.

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