Rated PG-13 - Running time: 1:35 - Released 9/18/98

In the old days of Bruce Lee, martial arts movies could be counted on to deliver lots of kicks and punches, but if you wanted humor, forget it. Even later, with the Billy Jack movies and Chuck Norris, being funny was definitely not those guys' jobs. But in Rush Hour, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker have brought the martial arts/action genre into the realm of tongue-in-cheek comedy, and done fairly well under the direction of Brett Ratner. Though longtime Hong Kong movie star Chan is not much more than a straight man in this film, he obviously has a better understanding of the concept than most of his predecessors. And Chris Tucker, clearly patterning himself after Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours, provides plenty of laughs. Unfortunately, laughs ain't enough.

Though amusing and reasonably exciting, Rush Hour feels borrowed. It is patterned most obviously after the Lethal Weapon series, featuring two unlikely partners whose personalities clash more with each other than the criminals they're pursuing. But it also has elements previously seen in such a variety of films as Running Scared, the aforementioned 48 Hours, and The Big Hit. As a result, this film cannot really exceed the slightly-above-average level in the script department. One has to wonder, can't Ross LaManna (story) and Jim Kouf (screenplay) come up with anything new? But Tucker and Chan work almost as well together as Gibson and Glover, and the story is plausible enough for a lighthearted kick-and shoot fest.

A young Asian girl is abducted just before a grand gala is to take place in L.A., celebrating the end of British rule in Hong Kong and the re-release of millions of dollars worth of ancient Chinese artworks that had been owned by Brit investors. The girl is Soo Yung (Julia Hsu), the daughter of Consul Han (Tzi Ma), a diplomat for the Hong Kong government. The kidnapper wants $50 million or the girl gets it. Thomas Griffin (The Full Monty's Tom Wilkinson), the outgoing British governor, is also on hand and appears distraught over the incident. Or is he?

Consul Han requests that Detective Inspector Lee (Chan), one of his best investigators, be used on the case. But the FBI is already working on it and doesn't want any meddlesome Chinese guy gumming up the works, so they hire Detective James Carter (Tucker) a mouthy LAPD cop, to be Lee's "partner" — basically, to show him the sights and keep him away from the case. But Carter wants to be in on the action as much as Lee does, and neither man wants a partner. So they must find a way to overcome their differences and the language barrier to help each other solve the case.

The movie is fun and funny, with plenty of action and very well-choreographed fights. Included at the end is a series of out-takes that are perhaps the funniest part of the show. Rush Hour would be a lot more valuable if it were not so heavily based on other successful films, but if you're looking for mindless entertainment, you could do worse. ***

Copyright 1998 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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