Rush Hour - * * *

Brett Ratner, the director behind Chris Tucker’s surprisingly funny buddy comedy Money Talks, tackles yet another Chris Tucker buddy comedy with Rush Hour. Can lightning strike twice? Yes, particularly when Jackie Chan gets involved.

James Carter (Chris Tucker) is a fast-talking streetwise cop who only hates one thing more than authority: the idea of having a partner. Hmmm…since this is a buddy cop movie, guess what…he’s going to get one.

That partner is Detective Lee (Jackie Chan), Hong Kong’s best detective. Lee is summoned to the United States when his friend, and former boss, Consul Han (Tzi Ma) has a problem. His young daughter, Soo Yung (Julia Hsu), has been kidnapped by a Hong Kong criminal organization seeking revenge against Han.

The F.B.I. don’t want to babysit a foreign cop, so they draft Carter for the duty. However, neither Carter nor Lee are content to stay on the sidelines, and they begin pursuing leads of their own.

In his first fully American movie (at least the first since his American “discovery”), Jackie Chan might not have the same volume of stunts as usual, but the quality is just as good. When watching the film, prepare to be awestruck several times.

But Rush Hour takes the traditional Jackie Chan actionfest one step further by adding something usually missing in his films: good, quality dialogue. And this is where Chris Tucker really shines. His fast-talking wit is nearly as spectacular as Jackie’s stunts.

It’s a shame that these two dynamic performers, the excellent stuntwork, and all the humor are put in the service of such a mundane plot. There haven’t been any fresh developments in the buddy-cop genre since the mid-1980s, yet it is this old stalwart that we confront yet again. And that’s not the only hoary cliche which rears its head here. No, the film is chock full of them. (We even meet a demolitions expert, played by Elizabeth Pena, whose career has entirely been made by making that 50-50 gamble: the red wire or the blue wire.)

But, still, there’s more inovation here than in most of Jackie Chan’s recent efforts, and his pairing with the wildly funny Chris Tucker makes this one worth watching despite the familiar plotting.

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