Review: Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Ziyi Zhang, John Lone, Don Cheadle, Alan King, Roslyn Sanchez

Fight Choreography by Jackie Chan

Directed by Brett Ratner

Rush Hour was a massive American success, one that had, until this point, eluded Jackie Chan, who had moderate hits with his HK imports. Teaming him up with Chris Tucker, a loudmouth comedian who is both funny and annoying in equal measure turned out to be gold at the box office. So what’s new with the sequel?

Actually, more of the same, except worse.

Rush Hour 2 picks up not long after Rush Hour, and we once again join Lee (Chan) and Carter (Tucker), and the tables are turned, with the duo being in Hong Kong instead, for a little bit. Carter is on vacation, and is a bit upset that he’s been nothing but helping Lee with his cases, but things change when there is a bombing at the American embassy, and Lee is tasked with checking out the Triads and his father’s former police partner Ricky Tan (Lone) who may be involved. What they find is that the Triads are working with an American billionaire to launder fake money at a new casino in Las Vegas. Along the way they team up with a beautiful FBI agent (Sanchez) and face off with Tan’s right hand woman Hu Li (Zhang). The film takes them from Hong Kong, Los Angeles and then Las Vegas, leading to a showdown at the Red Dragon Casino.

The story is serviceable, but unlike Rush Hour, the comedy pushes the story to the side. That is because Chris Tucker is given a much bigger part than Jackie Chan, you know, supposedly the star of the film. Of course, this is because Brett Ratner had an agenda to make Chris Tucker a bigger star, and both this film and its sequel supports this thought, giving more and more screen time to Chris Tucker. This is done by actually having Tucker have actual action scenes, the place where Chan is supposed to dwell, and therein lies the problem. With the Shanghai films, Owen Wilson is content–and smart enough–to share the screen with Chan, not attempt to upstage him. Not so much here. And in this the film is a complete failure, because what was the last film anyone has seen Chris Tucker in not named Rush Hour?

For Jackie Chan and martial arts action fans, the fights are far below the standards of what we expect from a Jackie Chan film. Yes, there are some cool single moments, like Chan’s escape from the guards at the casino leading to his dive through a teller window, and the fight up the bamboo scaffolding in Hong Kong, but the fights are too short and don’t allow for Chan’s full inventiveness to come to the fore. This is Ratner’s (who claims to be a fan of Police Story 1 and 2. Guess he never really paid much attention to the mall fight at the end of Police Story 1) take on martial arts films, than American’s cannot maintain their excitement at watching a fight scene longer than 2 minutes. That may be true for many USA films, but when you have inventive fight choreography, you can keep that excitement. Yuen Woo Ping, Jet Li, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee and Donnie Yen have been doing it for years, and it’s never hurt a film any of them have ever made.  My personal take is that Brett Ratner is nothing more than a studio hack, working for whomever on whatever project that has a name (Red Dragon, X-Men 3) because he is known for bringing his films under budget, but his films take no chances and rarely has much creativity or style. He also commits a cardinal sin of insulting his audience by staging many of the “outtakes” rather than actually having them come from some flub that truly happened.

This is also a film of missed opportunities. You have Ziyi Zhang in the film, and you relegate her big action scene to a fight versus Chris Tucker? Who the hell wants to see that? I think many were waiting for a big fight scene versus Jackie Chan, and it never happened. You have Ernie Reyes Jr. in the film, and what the hell does he do? He RUNS AWAY from Chan and Tucker, and leads them to the Triads, and that’s his lone scene. Hell, he had a bigger part fighting Dwayne Johnson (The Rock) in The Rundown.

James Lew, an always dependable stuntman and fight choreographer has a scene that lasts like 3 seconds. Jackie kicks him in the face and that’s it. The best fight in the film is Jackie Chan versus Don Cheadle. Don was a big Jackie Chan fan, and wanted to put his best foot forward. He spent months learning his Chinese, not just to say his lines, but to get the inflections and dialect correct. He also came in having learned some martial arts in anticipation of his fight scene with Jackie Chan, and really impressed Chan and the other stuntmen with how quickly he took to the fight choreography.

As an American action comedy film it works well enough, and came at a good time. It was just released shortly before 9/11, and in the days afterward people wanted to go see something they could use to escape their troubles for a few hours, and this film hit the spot while pretty much every other film was tanking, as they were more serious than what many American’s wanted to see. As a martial arts film, the criteria used on this website, it’s below mediocre. Jackie Chan is relegated more to the background and being Chris Tucker’s sidekick, and the fights are relatively generic, and Brett Ratner’s equally generic style doesn’t help anything. The lack of using his resources (Ziyi, Reyes Jr, Lew, Chan himself) is the most maddening thing of all.

(On a scale of 1-10, 10 being the best)

CHOREOGRAPHY: (4) Chan isn’t given the chance to use his inventiveness to really cut loose with good fight scenes. The Don Cheadle fight was the best one in the film, and the scaffold fight was a close second. The rest is forgettable.

STUNTWORK: (5) Lots of green screen used for Jackie Chan this time around. He still does some awesome things, but not close to his Hong Kong work, but that’s to be expected doing an American film, I suppose.

STAR POWER: (8)  Chan, Tucker, Zhang Ziyi, John Lone, and Don Cheadle bring a lot of star power to this film. Too bad much of it was wasted.

FINAL GRADE: (5) Still funny, perhaps even more so than the previous film, but there are too many wasted opportunities and agendas at work to make this film stand the test of time.

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