Last of the Monster Kids

Last of the Monster Kids
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Friday, May 29, 2015

Recent Watches: Rush Hour 3 (2007)

So they made a “Rush Hour 3.” Because of the overwhelming box office success of the second one, a sequel was birthed all by itself. However, it took six years for the third film to emerge. I have no idea why it took that long to cobble a movie together, seeing as how these films are clearly written in a weekend. In that time frame, Brett Ratner became a superstar director, Jackie Chan started to separate himself form the action genre, and Chris Tucker thankfully faded from public conscious. By the time “Rush Hour 3” was willed into being in 2007, the series was far past its expiration date. And yet, here we are, watching Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker yell at each other for a third time.

In the years since the events of “Rush Hour 2,” Lee has become the body guard of Consul Han. Carter, meanwhile, has been reduced to traffic duty. Their friendship has been strained, since Carter accidentally shot Lee’s girlfriend in the neck. However, an attempted assassination on Han brings the two back together. Soo-Yung, the little girl from the original, is now a teenager. Her life threatened, Lee and Carter have to get to the bottom of this. Heading to Paris, they discover a conspiracy involving the Triads, a secret list tattooed on the back of someone’s head, and Lee’s long-lost adopted brother.

The humor in the “Rush Hour” series has never exactly been sophisticated. “Rush Hour 3,” however, goes for the easiest jokes possible. An early sequence that contributes very little to the plot has Lee and Carter visiting a kung-fu dojo. There, Carter gets in a shouting match with an old man named, sigh, “Yu.” Before it’s over, we find out that a student’s name is “Mi.” Behold, the least sophisticated variation on “Who’s on First?” I’ve ever seen! Next, a seven foot tall Asian man appears and tosses a disbelieving Chris Tucker across the room. Later, there’s an extended joke about a nun and swearing being in the same room together. When Lee is fighting in a room with a woman, Carter hears the slamming and grunts and assumes they’re having sex. (This is obviously dumb but also sort of creepy.) Once in France, Lee and Carter are probed by an overly touchy Paris police officer. And, hey, let’s cast Roman Polanski as a guy who penetrates someone against their will! That’s classy. Most embarrassingly tone-deaf, the film even throws in a trans-panic joke, when Carter develops the totally unfounded suspicion that his love interest may be a man. Really? That old chest nut? In 2007? You’re really not helping your case here, Brett Ratner.

But the jokes in the “Rush Hour” movies have always been lame. The saving grace of the series has always been Jackie Chan’s stunts. Unfortunately, in the years between parts two and three, Chan suddenly got old. There’s no somersaulting, flipping, jump-kicks, or dives through windows this time. Chan’s most impressive stunt here has him sliding around a hospital hallway or climbing up a doorway, avoiding throwing knives. Chan’s age has visibly caught up with him. Worst yet, Jackie is even replaced with a CGI stunt double on several occasions. The awful final fight between Chan and bad guy Hiroyuki Sanada has them bouncing up and down the Eiffel Tower. Even more pathetic is Tucker and Chan diving off the tower, using a French flag as a parachute. Jackie was too old for this shit and he knew it. The result is embarrassing for any long time fan of the performer.

The one mildly clever thing “Rush Hour 3” does is acknowledge the simmering gay subtext beneath every buddy cop movie. Yes, Carter is preoccupied with getting laid. He spends large portions of the movie pursuing Noemie Lenoir, his love interest. There’s also the entirely pointless scene where he makes a dressing room full of showgirls stripe nude. However, the movie is more then willing to play Lee and Carter’s strained relationship as a break-up. When the two argue and leave in a huff, Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word” plays on the soundtrack. The two are gleefully reunited on the dance stage together, Lee swooping in on a zip-line, singing along to the music. Could this just be another gay panic joke from Brett Ratner’s sophisticated bag of tricks? Probably. In a movie as lazy as “Rush Hour 3,” it ends up being the cleverest gag the script offers.

The plot is equal parts predictable and ridiculous. The film boldly recycles the first movie’s plot twist. The stately old guy who seems like he’s on the heroes' side is revealed to be the mastermind behind the villainous plot. This one was even easier to guess based on Max Von Sydow’s casting. The evil brother plot between Chan and Sanada is especially contrived. The film has to go to absurd lengths to justify casting a Japanese man as a Chinese man’s brother. The plot’s MacGuffin turns out to be a person, the love interest randomly having an important list tattooed on her head. If it was explained how this person who enters the plot on a whim has a connection to an ancient conspiracy, I can’t remember. The most promising thing the movie does early on is bring back Soo-Yung, now as an ass-kicking young woman. By the end, she’s a damsel in distress, dangling off the Eiffel Tower, in need of rescuing. So it goes.

Okay, there’s a mildly diverting car chase, featuring one clever gag when a motorcycle crashes into a van. The character of the French cab driver who goes from hating Americans to embracing a life-style of violence was also sort funny. However, “Rush Hour 3” is mostly as lazy as can be. The movie ends abruptly, reaching the minimum run time of eighty some minutes and calling it a day. A fourth film has been teased but, considering part three made even less then the first, seems unlikely. And thank god for that. The modest, puffy bubblegum joys of the first two are long gone, leaving a long-in-the-tooth action franchise that can barely be bothered to offer anything. [4/10]

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