Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, May 29, 2015

Recent Watches: Rush Hour 2 (2001)

Here’s a really rambling anecdote I have that’s barely related to “Rush Hour 2.” Relatively early in my internet-surfing history, I discovered a comedy website called SpackleCube Inc. It was run by two guys named Cyrus and Jackson. The site went through many variation before it finally vanished from the internet. In the earliest days, it was just a home for the funny things Cyrus and Jackson would write. One of Cyrus’ favorite movies, one he would reference repeatedly, was “Rush Hour 2,” which he considered the crowning achievement of cinema. As a dumb kid, I didn’t recognize what was probably a great deal of irony on his end. As a dumb kid, I also really liked the original “Rush Hour” and was a bit underwhelmed by the sequel. As a slightly less dumb adult, who found the first one mildly dire, I went into the sequel with mixed expectations.

Picking up where the first one left off, “Rush Hour 2” has Carter and Lee headed to Hong Kong. Though there to vacation, Lee is quickly involved in a mission to uncover who bombed the US Embassy. The plot leads him to Ricky Tan, the Triad gangster involved with his father’s murder. Carter and Lee follow the conspiracy back to the US where they discover a counterfeiting plot, the origin of world renown fake bills, and a sexy Secret Service agent with ambiguous loyalties.

What is it with buddy cop movie sequels that essentially repeat the formula of the first movie in their sequel? The first half of “Rush Hour 2” is set in Hong Kong. While the first movie had Jackie Chan as a fish out of water in L.A., the sequel has Chris Tucker as a fish-out-of-water in Hong Kong. This is about as embarrassing as you’d expect. He wanders the streets in a silk shirt and haggles with a chicken vendor. He yells at a Chinese cab driver. And, typically, there are a lot of jokes about massage parlors. In fact, there’s an entire sequence set in one! This is lazy writing but it’s not the laziest thing the movie does. It flat out repeats jokes from the first film. The Beach Boys on the radio, “Do you understand the words that are coming out of mouth?,” and jokes about Asians all looking the same are reprised. It feels less like a friendly call-back to beloved aspects of the original and more like a lame re-trend of what came before.

Of course, one element “Rush Hour 2” has that the first also had is Jackie Chan. Chan’s acrobatics remain the most entertaining thing about the series. The film puts him in unlikely situations that allow the actor to test out his skills. Thus, we have Jackie on a scaffolding outside a building, ducking and diving around attacking foes. We have a punch-fest in the massage parlor, involving lots of flipping and leaping. Jackie ninjas his way onto a boat, jumps through a tiny window, scales the wall, and has a funny, close-quarters scuffle with one of Tucker’s relatives. Chan’s comedic chops are even given more to do. A small moment of him bopping his head to the radio gets one of the biggest laughs in the whole movie. Chan remains a fantastically entertaining performer and his abilities easily transcends even lesser material like this.

The dire trip to China in the first half of the movie is basically an extended set-up for the rest of the plot and has little effect on the overall movie. When Lee and Carter get back to the states, the story actually starts to build. There’s a sexy Secret Service agent, who both guys have the hots for, who explains the counterfeiting plot the movie is technically about. There’s a rich white guy and a casino and none of its horribly important. Story wise, this is all fairly tedious. However, around the halfway point, “Rush Hour 2” begins to develop into a slightly better buddy cop movie then its predecessor. The banter between Chan and Tucker is less shrill and genuinely amusing at times. This is best displayed when the two emerge from a sewer hole. A trip to a clothing store to try on some flashier cloths got a laugh from me, even if the flaming gay store clerk looks horribly dated.

Chris Tucker, obnoxious as he can be, gets a laugh or two. His improvised tribute to Michael Jackson is sort of funny. So is the enthusiastic session he has at the craps table. The casino setting actually adds a lot of color and perks things up a bit. The main villain is totally lame and a complete non-entity. However, his main henchwoman is played by a mostly silent Zhang Ziyi. Ziyi, an up-and-comer at the time, is a formidable opponent, far more memorable then the movie’s actual threat. She’s so impressive that her show-down with Tucker, where he copies a few of Jackie’s trick, is frankly unbelievable.

Like the first “Rush Hour,” the sequel has the good sense to wrap things up really quickly. We’re in and out and done in slightly over ninety minutes. These movies are the lightest of light-weight popcorn flicks. Like some sort of cinematic cotton candy, we watch it, have a chuckle or two, and forgot about it the second we leave the theater. Being so inoffensive, I can’t really hate it. I even sort of like it at times. Yet the movie is incredibly, completely brainless. It’s a one-time watch if there ever was one. Naturally, it was even more successful then the first, keeping the undead ghoul that is Chris Tucker’s career alive for a little bit longer. [6/10]

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