Whereas a flick like “The Bourne Ultimatum” surpasses expectations and pushes the boundaries of the genre, this third pic in the “Rush Hour” franchise is content rehashing the same old odd couple, buddy cops, fish out of water formulas that were already well-worn when they showed up in the first flick in 1998.
Chris Tucker is still brash, loud-mouthed and either hilarious, obnoxious or both at the same time. Jackie Chan remains more low-key, the straight man of the duo, but when the going gets tough, so does he. Even at 53, Jackie can still move! In fact, I think he gets to shine more action-wise here than in the two previous movies, running, jumping and kicking it all around, building up to an insane climactic showdown up in the Eiffel tower.
The plot, which involves Triad members up to no good in Paris, is inconsequential and predictable (I knew Max von Sydow shouldn’t be trusted the moment he showed up), but it rolls along at a nice enough clip (though, again, antiquely slow compared to “The Bourne Ultimatum”) and it does work as an excuse for a free-for-all homage to Asian action cinema, from old kung fu flicks (look for a reversal of the Bruce Lee / Kareem Abdul-Jabbar fight in “Game of Death”, as Tucker takes on the world’s tallest Asian!) to John Woo’s gangster movies (watch Tucker work twin handguns in a hospital, “Hard Boiled”-style!). Brett Ratner doesn’t come near to transcending his influences like Tarantino did in “Kill Bill”, but we’re more or less on the same level of silly fun as Carpenter’s “Big Trouble in Little China”.
We also get a few more laughs out of Tucker getting his groove on (his first scene has him singing and dancing to Prince’s Do Me, Baby while directing traffic!), and even Jackie gets to sing with him in one number, a rendition of Roberta Flack’s The Closer I Get to You… Which kind of suggests that Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson are not entirely unaware of the latent homoeroticism in all buddy cop movies. I should mention that before Tucker and Chan’s triumphant bromantic reconciliation through serenade à la “Moulin Rouge!”, the two hetero lifemates have a falling out illustrated by a sad bastard montage, set to Elton John’s Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word, which includes a ridiculously awesome reference to “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom”.
Of course, all the clichés about France are also poked fun at and, more interestingly, a few French actors are given supporting roles, including Noémie Lenoir, Julie Depardieu and especially Yvan Attal, who’s quite amusing as a cab driver who’d like to know what it’s like to be an American and “kill people for no reason”! As for the cameo by filmmaker Roman Polanski, it’s more odd than funny.
Altogether, “Rush Hour 3” is nothing new and not even particularly good, but as old school entertainment, it does the job. It lacks the relative freshness of the first installment, but it’s noticeably better than the second one. Adjust your expectations accordingly and you should have a fun time.