The action genre had really gone sour ever since Terminator II died out. Action stars like Jean Claude Van Damme and Sylvester Stalone had basically made carbon copies of their previous hits and re-released them under different names. However, starting in 1998 with Rush Hour , starring Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, and moving on to hits like The Matrix , the action genre is gaining new life with unique mixes of stars and plots to add life to the mindless action that has plagued the genre in the past. Like Buster Keaton and the other great silent comedians, Jackie Chan has relied upon the universal language of physical comedy to transcend the barriers of the spoken word. That is why the Hong Kong based Jackie Chan has become an international superstar, with legions of fans all over the world. Rush Hour fits the action genre because it has excellent fighting action scenes and a typical super hero against a whole mob.
In Rush Hour , Jackie Chan comes back to the action genre, but brings a sidekick along for the ride. No, not some Chinese action star like Jet Li (Lethal Weapon 4) who provides two lines of dialogue and mindless kicks and punches. This co-star is one of the loudest and fastest talking on the silver screen today: Chris Tucker. Tucker is a unique choice to co-star in the comedy-action genres, which adds the thrill. Tucker’s fast-talking and quick humor sharply contrasts Chan’s usual dull style. On the other hand, Jackie Chan s presence has the ability to reign in Chris Tucker’s comedic excesses and preventing him from taking things too far over the top.
Jackie Chan portrays Detective Inspector Lee of Hong Kong, who comes to America at the behalf of an old friend who just happens to be the Chinese Consul. The Consul requests that Inspector Lee aid the FBI in locating his kidnapped daughter. However, the FBI does not want any foreign interference with their investigation, so they enlist the aid of the L.A.P.D. to baby-sit Lee. Of course, the L.A.P.D. does not want the job either, but they do have one problematic police detective they would like to keep out of trouble for a few days, so thus assign him to usher Inspector Lee around Los Angeles. Chris Tucker plays Detective James Carter, a loudmouth cowboy that the police department just cannot seem to keep under control. From the start, it is a culture clash as Lee and Carter discover that they have nothing in common, including the manner in which they conduct themselves as police officers. Neither Inspector Lee (Chan) nor Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) is used to working with partners, and both have reputations for causing more trouble than they are worth at times. So when they are both assigned to work on the same case – the kidnapping of a Chinese consul’s daughter – the FBI agent in charge (Tom Wilkinson) just tries to get them both out of the way. They keep getting in the way, of course, doing their best to solve the case on their own.
Rush Hour provides the audience a lot of breathtaking action scenes with astounding physical prowess and speed mixed with absurd comic timing such as when a bartender has Chan in a headlock and he picks up a barstool with his feet, jack-knifes it up and bonks the guy in the head with it, rolling away before it hits the bar. There are two scenes in particular, which are stunning, one involving a traffic jam and the other in an impossibly high atrium. Chan also swings a pool cue like he’s directing an orchestra, battles Chinese mobsters while on his back in a tipped-over lounge chair, fights off bad guys while holding up a giant Chinese art treasure and falls from the rafters of an auditorium and slides to the ground on an unfurled banner. Chan also runs up walls, plays Who’s Got the Gun? However, the most scary and hilarious action scene is when Chan trying to escape from Carter in typical Jackie Chan style, jumping onto a passing tour bus and then hanging from a Hollywood sign. The action sequences are also adequately thrilling, with more explosions and machine-gun fire than the usual Jackie Chan movies from Hong Kong.
How can an action movie be without a hero? “Rush Hour” is no exception. It starts off in Hong Kong on the eve of the British handover of the Island colony to Mainland China. Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) busts a smuggling operation in the harbor, recovering millions of dollars worth of Chinese art and historical artifacts from the criminal mastermind Juntao. Detective Lee reports to his superior Consul Han during a celebratory dinner in honor of his new position as American Consul to the U.S. for the new government. Upon arriving in America, Consul Han’s daughter, Soo Yung a little cutie who is the love of Chan’s life, is kidnapped and held for ransom. The Chinese government calls Chan in to help find the girl, much to the chagrin of the FBI, which asks the LAPD for a stooge to baby-sit this Chinese cop and keep him away from the real case. They want nothing to do with Lee so they sucker the LA Police Department’s biggest oddball-Detective James Carter into babysitting the explosive martial artist. Carter’s excited about working with the Bureau, but not about spending the majority of his time keeping Lee away from the action. The constant bickering and animosity between Carter and Lee creates more confusion than help, until the two men grudgingly decide to work together, outside of the official investigation. However, no matter how much they get on each other’s nerves, they really do like each other although neither one will be the first to admit it. Together, they emerge as heroes to fight off the powerful Chinese underworld villains and rescue the little girl.
All and all, Rush Hour is a very humorous action-packed movie. It succeeds because the characters overcome their differences, fight through the stereotypes, and work together to achieve justice while entertaining us at the same time. It’s a fast-paced riot with two people we enjoy and want to see more of. Rush Hour may not be as explosive as Jackie’s other action movies, but it doesn t have to be. What makes the film so refreshing is that for the first time, it doesn’t have to 100% revolve around Jackie. Sure, Tucker can get on your nerves at times and you can tell that he’s trying to be the next Eddie Murphy, but he provides more than enough laughs to make the film work. While Jackie Chan never seems to do the same action scene twice, he makes action movies fun again, instead of just violent and deadly, and it is Chan who puts what real fun there is in ”Rush Hour.”