The Chinese consul chooses to use his old Hong Kong inspector rather than the FBI after his daughter is abducted. The inspector unwillingly reports to work with another LAPD inspector who is also on leave.
A box office hit
Rush Hour’s efforts to revive the buddy movie genre have been so successful that a sequel is expected to debut in multiplexes as early as next Christmas, having brought in about $130 million in US box office earnings. And even if Chan and Tucker don’t quite have the same box office draw in this film, the glossy mix of endearing comedy and masterfully staged action should maintain enough levels of attention.
Chan, as Detective Inspector Lee, is sent from Hong Kong to LA by the US consul of that city, whose daughter has been abducted by Oriental crimelords, according to the narrative, which is only a vehicle to highlight the frantic energy of its starring characters. To keep Lee as far away from the investigation as possible, the FBI enlists the help of LAPD loose cannon James Carter (Tucker), who is not eager to find itself in a diplomatic jam if harm should come to the new arrival.
The plot quickly spirals out of hand; Carter, resentful of his purported babysitting job, has his own ideas for rescuing the stolen child, while Lee is desperate to solve the case. Together, they decided to take matters in their own hands after forming the customary first hesitant collaboration.
Rush Hour, despite its name, takes an uncomfortable amount of time to get going, with the most of the first half devoted to Tucker’s sub-Eddie Murphy act, which is either loved or despised. This quickly grows tiresome considering that his clearly enormous abilities are being wasted on corny Michael Jackson impersonations and every variation of ass-kicking-related speech the author can come up with.
Why the movie kicks in
Tucker’s hyperactive behaviour is actually moderated by Chan, who is blessed with all the happy naivety of a tourist travelling overseas for the first time, saving the day as the two try to overcome their cultural differences.
This is when the film really picks off, as Tucker becomes much more endearing after he is obliged to stop moaning and start playing off his new partner. Of course, this also provides Chan the chance to burst out into the blazing, balletic style of action that made him famous.
The set pieces that follow are masterful, as Chan uses snooker cues, bar stools, and, in one legendary episode, a pair of precious Ming vases that he desperately wants to save to take down the bad guys.
With its thankless supporting characters (Wilkinson as a British ambassador, Pena as an LAPD bomb disposal specialist), shoddy storyline, and utterly predictable conclusion, Rush Hour may be as brainless as they come, but when seen as an uncomplicated crowd-pleaser, it more than delivers.