Rush Hour 2 Review
In this reviewers opinion Jackie Chan's 'true' American films (Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon) have thus far been a great success. Both have drawn large returns cementing future projects for our favourite Hong Kong action star, as well as providing him with two onscreen partners (Chris Tucker and Owen Wilson) where there is a genuine chemistry at work. Both films have also included a good mix of action and comedy (even if Jackie himself does not understand all of it!) as well as being thoroughly entertaining and holding up to repeated viewings. Now the first of the sequels is upon us, Rush Hour 2 received its worldwide launch on August 3rd, but can this sequel echo Jackie's Hong Kong success? (Where his film sequels at least match the original film, occasionally even surpassing the original, Drunken Master 2 anyone?)
Leading on from where the original left off we see that James Carter (Chris Tucker) is now on holiday in Hong Kong with his newfound partner, Lee (Jackie Chan). Unfortunately for Carter those damned terrorists just will not take a break so his travel guide, Lee, just cannot stop working and is not free to show him a good time. When a bomb explodes in the American Embassy things really heat up so Lee and his unwilling partner are on the case that will eventually lead them back to America and into the casinos of Las Vegas. Although this all sounds relatively simple the plot is actually far more involving this time round going so far as to include the odd surprise and twist in the tale, as well as providing us with two villains that are genuinely interesting and at times, menacing (Zhang Ziyi in particular, but I will get to her later).
What really made the first film was the obvious chemistry between the two leads, the great news here is that the Chan-Tucker chemistry is still present and better than ever. Both actors have developed their onscreen relationship well showing the obvious friendship that both actors have off screen, but what is great to see is how Jackie is no longer Chris Tuckers sidekick (which was the case in Rush Hour). Instead, Jackie not only offers us that trademark blend of physical comedy and action sequence finesse but goes so far as to upstage his co-star in many scenes that involve the verbal comedy Tucker usually excels in. That is not to say Chris Tucker is unfunny, far from it. Straight off there is plenty to enjoy in the form of karaoke (where Tucker puts in a superb Michael Jackson style performance) and throughout the film he gets to continue the same verbal comedy that was present (and worked so well) in the original, its just that for this sequel Jackie has been given an almost equally large speaking role (due to his improved English) in which to exercise his comedic timing and natural talent, so when you combine this with his obvious superiority in the action stakes Chan really impresses.
Although the comedy on show is genuinely laugh out loud funny (more so than the original) it has to be said that the action sequences constructed for Rush Hour 2 are not as impressive as they could be. Some (fools) will say its down to the ageing Jackie Chan, but it is far more likely down to the inexperienced direction of Brett Ratner who really has not developed his action direction since his debut with the original Rush Hour. The action seen here is on a par with the original but never really takes it any further with some scenes even losing dramatic impact, and in some cases (the Massage Parlour fight) we see old routines adapted and re-used, although this is also down to Chan so Ratner is not completely at fault. Some scenes are particularly interesting with some fun choreography (the aforementioned Massage Parlour fight for example) but others just do not work due to poor direction that loses any form of suspense (the bamboo scaffolding scene). For myself the most impressive sequence involved a short exchange of traditional Martial Arts form between Jackie and one of the films cameo actors (who I will not name so as not to spoil if for you) as it was fast, fluid and completely unexpected!
This film really belongs to Chan and Tucker, but worthy of mention are the main supporting cast, coming in the quite exquisite form of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi and the equally seductive Roselyn Sanchez. Zhang Ziyi is cast as the rather evil main terrorist, Hu Li, her role is disappointingly short (probably due to her poor English) but she will certainly be remembered due to a strong performance and striking appearance throughout, however what is really disappointing is that she never gets to go one on one with Jackie Chan! Roselyn Sanchez puts in an adequate performance as Agent Isabella Molina, a character whose main role is to confuse both Jackie and the audience (whose side is she really on?) as well as to add to the already impressive eye candy on show (fret not ladies, both Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker bare all - within reason - in an extremely funny scene).
So, in response to my original question, Jackie HAS echoed his Hong Kong success with sequels by providing us with a film that is easily as good as the first. In many respects it actually surpasses the original, the characters are far more balanced, performances are generally far more solid while the comedy is definitely superior, but due to the poor direction of, and, it has to be said, lack of innovation within the action sequences this sequel becomes more of a Comedy-Action than an Action-Comedy and it is this that prevents Rush Hour 2 from becoming one of the few sequels to truly better the original. With that said (enough with the critique!) this is a supremely fun Comedy-Action film that will at times have you roaring with laughter (the Outtakes at then end are hilarious) while keeping a constant smile on your face throughout, it even manages to satisfy that hunger for a Jackie Chan fight scene! What more could you want? I never thought I would say it, but roll on Rush Hour 3!