Tuesday, 23 July 2024

Familiar thrills, jokes hurry through 'Rush Hour 3'

RUSH HOUR 3 (Rated PG-13)

The trilogy of “Rush Hour” films is so obviously interchangeable that you could watch them out of order and not miss a beat. The only telltale sign of the advancing age of the franchise is that Jackie Chan, master of the martial arts, is looking like he just signed on with the AARP and will soon be doing commercials for enlarged prostate remedies. On the other hand, his unshakable buddy, Chris Tucker, still runs his mouth with little sign of a slowdown any time soon.

Thus, with Chan gamely throwing his fists and feet in a diminished state of fury, “Rush Hour 3” moves predictably, if not gracefully, with its typical formula of fast-paced action laced with the comic potential of the mismatched crime fighters constantly bickering.

Sticking close to the cinematic blueprint that keeps the strange cop duo fun to watch, director Brett Ratner rolls out in “Rush Hour 3” what seems like an almost improvised comedy and action hybrid. It’s as if Hong Kong Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Los Angeles Police Department police officer Carter (Chris Tucker), polar opposites in law enforcement methodology and matters of culture and taste, were asked to do an impromptu riff on their essential differences. In itself, that could be the appeal of this oddly matched pair coming to grips with their undeniable gravitation to incessant bantering and quarreling over the smallest matters.

In the first film, the action took place in Carter’s Los Angeles, and for the sequel, it moved to Lee’s turf in Hong Kong. For the third film, it’s back to Los Angeles, albeit briefly for the set-up that has Chinese Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) once again threatened, this time by an assassin who wants to prevent his testimony on the nefarious plans of the Triads before the World Criminal Court.

Having being demoted to a traffic cop, Carter shows his greatest interest in arresting young women for minor infractions, but then he gets unwittingly caught up in Lee’s foot chase of the gunman who tried to kill the ambassador.

To add an emotional wallop to the proceedings, the assassin turns out to be Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), and he escapes unscathed because Lee could not shoot him at the critical moment. The reason for this is that Lee considers Kenji a “brother” because they grew up together in the same orphanage.

The potential of sibling rivalry is never fully developed, but that is no matter when Lee and Carter discover, after a ridiculous encounter with an oversized kung fu warrior, that they will have to seek a mysterious envelope that is somehow connected to a triad conspiracy sheltered somewhere in Paris.

Their first exposure to Paris is through a deranged cabbie named George (Yvan Attal), who promptly denounces America and its fascination with violence before his cab even leaves the curb at the airport.

Ten minutes later, after some gunplay and wild chase scenes through the Parisian streets, George is singing a different tune, going so far as to don a baseball cap and to spout macho talk that would make John Wayne blush. While George acts as their tour guide, the dynamic duo encounters unwanted attention from a deadly Dragon Lady and Triad henchmen who chase them into the putrid sewers.

The key figure they stumble on is the mysterious, exotic showgirl Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir), the lead dancer at a snazzy nightclub, where it is apparently not uncommon to see Chinese patrons toting machine guns.

In any case, there are other shenanigans going on that involve a sadistic French police official (Roman Polanski), who has a fixation on the rubber glove treatment for his law enforcement counterparts from America. World Criminal Court official Reynard (Max von Sydow) should arouse suspicion, if only because he wraps himself in phony sophistication.

For his part, Carter has no qualms about being the fool, particularly when he pretends to be the whimsical Bubbles, a fashioner designer who insists on personally redesigning the costumes of naked showgirls backstage at the cabaret.

Actually, to make “Rush Hour 3” work, it appears that both Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker have no reservations about playing the fools, going so far as to do an Abbott and Costello imitation. The ardent fans of the franchise will be pleased with the outcome, because this third installment delivers the laughs and the action that are expected. The film reaches a climax with some nifty thrills high up in the Eiffel Tower, which proves to be a nice way to top off the action stunts.

Tim Riley writes film reviews for Lake County News.




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