Summer of 1997, shortly before the Hong Kong hand-over from the Brits to China. While Van Damme is trying to save the megacity from explosive blue jeans (in “Knock Off”), a bunch of Asian gangsters helped by a Brit diplomat are trying to improve their finances by kidnapping the daughter of an influent Chinese civil servant. The FBI is on the case, but the kidnappee’s father wants one of his own supercop Jackie Chan to take care of the situation. Of course, the arrogant American agents don’t wanna be bothered, so they charge LAPD cop Chris Tucker of keeping Chan out of their way. Well, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Chan and Tucker, in pure Hollywood spirit, confront each other’s cultural differences, argue a lot and blow up a lot of shit. They keep getting into wild fights and chases, even though they’re supposed to keep a low profile.
We have seen a lot of films like this, like “48 Hours” and the “Lethal Weapon” series. The lead actors themselves have starred in other buddy comedies, Chan in “The Protector” and Tucker in “Money Talks”. But in these films, their co-stars Danny Aiello and Charlie Sheen weren’t all that hot as far as action flicks go. Hence, it’s a blast to see Tucker and Chan together. They have great chemistry together: it’s obvious they’re having a lot of fun, and Lord knows that’s what makes this kind of movie work. As I said, Chan fanatics might be disappointed. Clean-cut and tight in Armani suits, he doesn’t get to show much of his kung fu skills, by contrast with Hong Kong films where 20 minute all-out rumbles are usual. Still, Chan’s an extremely likable guy, he’s got plenty of funny scenes and when he finally gets into fights, he’s as keen as ever.
But to me, the real star is Chris Tucker. Without his high-energy performance, it would be harder to pass over how unoriginal, ridiculous and predictable the story is. Tucker is real cool with his dancin’ grooves and his high pitch motormouth, and he might be the funniest mofo since Eddie Murphy. Arrogant, impulsive and loud, it’s a wonder he can remain in the LAPD! The film also features Philip Baker Hall as the police chief and Chris Penn, fatter than ever, as a street thug. More kudos to the casting director for finding the cute and funny little girl who turns the thankless character of the kidnappee into one of the film’s brightest performances. No critic, Academy or film student would back me, but I respect a guy like Brett Ratner. Here’s a guy who seems to have said to himself, the heck with tedious, pseudo-smart psychological movies, let’s have fun! And trust me, “Rush Hour” is terrific entertainment.