Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:30 - Released 8/3/01

Director Brett Ratner obviously knows a good thing when he sees it. The success of 1998's buddy cop comedy Rush Hour, his breakthrough as a director, left little question as to whether there would be sequels. The only question is, how many? Answer: however many the market will bear.

Ratner's Rush Hour 2 reunites Chinese kung fu superstar Jackie Chan and Eddie Murphy-school funnyman Chris Tucker for another action-filled romp, this time split between the streets of Hong Kong and those of L.A. It begins in the Asian metropolis, where LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker) is visiting his old pal, Detective Inspector Lee (Chan) while on vacation there. Unfortunately, Inspector Lee is not on vacation, and when the American embassy is bombed and two agents are killed, Lee is forced to get back to work. Since the agents were Americans, Carter also has an interest in the case, and soon the two are working together again, kicking and punching their way through several groups of Chinese thugs in order to get information. When their quarry, crime lord Ricky Tan (John Lone) makes his getaway to the states, the intrepid Chinese inspector and his wisecracking counterpart follow, tailing Tan to L.A. and finally cornering him at a Las Vegas casino owned by influential American Steven Reign (a strangely out-of-place Alan King), who seems to be in on the deal. Also present are Ricky's high-kicking female accomplice Hu Li (Ziyi Zhang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) and Latina femme fatale Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez), who may or may not be working for Reign.

I daresay this film is more enjoyable than its predecessor, which seemed like recycled material at best, since Chan and Tucker are more relaxed together and an aura of friendship clearly exists between them. They seem to be moving into their own realm now rather than riding on the coattails of other comic police duos. The screenplay for this film is by Jeff Nathanson, who has capitalized on the odd couple scenario, but director Ratner has wisely chosen not to stay rigidly bound to the text, allowing Chan and Tucker to ad-lib much of the comedy. Meanwhile, the kung fu is, of course, amazing, especially considering that unlike many recent martial arts filmmakers, Chan does not use any special effects to enhance the look of his combat, and in fact does all his own stunts. Fans of the martial arts will enjoy battles in several locations, including a massage parlor, a luxury yacht, a casino, and atop some precarious-looking bamboo scaffolding. Chan's athletic and gymnastic ability is, as usual, quite impressive, cleverly using furniture and other nearby objects to aid in his well-choreographed fighting. This is made all the more evident when one sees the traditional closing credit outtakes, wherein he occasionally misses his mark and falls on his face or some other body part. In one such blooper, he has a spectacularly painful-looking fall, and when asked by an offscreen voice if he's okay, Chan quips, "Jackie's always okay!"

One thing of interest to Chan's female fans may be the nude scene, a first for the Hong Kong superstar, where he is forced to run through traffic holding a newspaper over himself. In a talk show interview, Chan said this was his most embarrassing moment, especially when a young girl approached him between shots and asked for an autograph (while his hands were clearly otherwise engaged). But regardless of whether you're interested in seeing Chan's fists in action, his buns exposed, or his interaction with his American friend, if you're a fan, you'll probably be impressed. ****

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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