Jackie Chan. One of the most highly trained performers of martial arts in the world. It took him twenty years' in the industry to finally crack Hollywood, after dozens of lauded (and often dubbed) Hong Kong action-comedies (Police Story, Armour of God) and several successful westernised crossovers (Rumble in the Bronx, First Strike aka Police Story 4), reaching the big-time following his starring role in Rush Hour, opposite loudmouth comedian Chris Tucker. It was a great combination, allowing for some witty chalk and cheese banter as well as plenty of Chan martial arts moves and stunts, and he followed up this partnered-with-an-American approach by starring alongside Owen Wilson in the even better Shanghai Noon, as well as doing reasonable sequels to both. Now, several years later, Chan has returned to the (arguably inferior, at least to the Shanghai movies) Rush Hour franchise to do a third instalment. But does he still have that magic?
After an assassination attempt whilst he was serving on the Chinese Ambassador's protection detail, Chief Inspector Lee finds himself caught up in a plot involving Chinese Triads, his estranged Japanese 'brother' and the Eiffel Tower. And who better for him to team up with than the ever-dependable, ever-loudmouth Los Angeles Detective James Carter as they journey to Paris in search of the truth and, no doubt, trouble. Before long they're being shot at, beaten up, chased and generally overpowered, although they refuse to give up. It's East meets West once again, only now they finally understand one another, they are both faced with the fact that they don't speak French.
Brett Ratner is not a name to be trusted. His directorial efforts have been pretty mediocre across the board - After the Sunset, Red Dragon (a far, far inferior remake to the classic Michael Mann movie Manhunter, starring the underrated William 'CSI' Petersen) and, of course, the Rush Hour movies themselves - with one massive, unforgiveable addition - X-Men 3: The Last Stand. Totally and utterly ruining what was arguably one of the better Comic Book Superhero franchises, he is the only man in the business capable of killing off half of the characters that we had grown to love over the previous two instalments and leave audiences merely ambivalent to it. With little style or skills, I'm surprised he's lasted this long, but I can understand why he has returned to the one franchise which made him any kind of money - and which didn't particularly damage his name: the Rush Hour movies. After all, the movies are all about Chan's moves and Tucker's wit, so how bad could he make a third instalment?
Honestly, Rush Hour 3 is pretty average stuff. The first movie was very enjoyable, and reasonably original - if not in initial conceit then certainly in the way it was brought to life by the leads - and the second movie, whilst not as good, was far from disappointing - it was just more of the same. Unfortunately, with this third, it just seems like they're going through the motions, churning out another, predictable sequel to milk more money from the cash cow. Chan's getting quite old now and whilst he did his best to avoid it showing before, it's clear he's a long way away from his heyday. Don't get me wrong - I'm sure we all wish we were as limber in our thirties as he is in his fifties - but that doesn't stop the fact that he simply doesn't have those audience-astounding stunts in him anymore. At least not in this movie. And Tucker, much more famous for his stand-up comic routines than his acting, has also filled out a little, even his wit a little less enduring. Before he was irritating, but in a purposeful, tolerable and engaging way, but in this movie he begins to grate.
The rest of the cast are not in the least bit memorable, which is no surprise considering that few of them were first choices for the roles. After having the likes of Zhang 'House of Flying Daggers' Ziyi and Maggie 'Die Hard 4' Q in the first sequel, Gong 'Miami Vice' Li and Bollywood beauty Rai Aishwarya were originally wanted for Rush Hour 3, but - unsurprisingly - declined to star in a Brett Ratner movie. (Probably because they know that he's capable of making people who can act, look like they can't.) Those we are left with (the beautiful yet vapid Noemie Lenoir and the forgettable Zang Jinchung) bring nothing to the roles, and leave us with characters that we don't particularly care about. The scripted villain was supposedly to be played by the ageing Steven 'Under Siege' Seagal, who is apparently great mates with Jackie Chan, but his role appears to have been split between The Last Samurai's Sanada Hiroyuki - whose acting skills, as seen in the likes of Sunshine and Twilight Samurai, are utterly wasted here - and Flash's very own Ming the Merciless, Max Von Sydow, who basically phones in his performance. The only thing to be grateful for is the fact that their respective screen time is kept to a minimum - and that's something I never thought that I would find myself grateful for. And Roman Polanski - don't even get me started on him and his ludicrously pointless cameo. What is he even doing in this movie?
So Rush Hour 3 is basically a bad movie with good moments. Don't get me wrong, it's hard not to like Chan and Tucker, no matter how bad the script or how lacklustre (or, at least, predictable) the action, and so most of their scenes (and thus most of the movie) are actually quite watchable. The trouble is, when the credits roll and outtakes come on, and you find yourself laughing for the first time in the past hour and a half, you wonder whether it was really worth it. I still have hopes for a third Shanghai flick, despite Owen Wilson's current personal issues and Chan's age, but - please - no more Rush Hours.
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