Rush Hour 2

reviewed by Steve Sailer

UPI, August 2, 2001

 

One of the articles of faith among film critics is that sequels are always bad. "Rush Hour 2," the follow-up to Jackie Chan's and Chris Tucker's $250 million-grossing 1998 action comedy, pleasingly challenges this assumption.

It's significantly better than the original at exploiting the delightful chemistry between its stars. Anyone who enjoys humor based on racial stereotypes -- and, judging by the success of the first movie, that's most people on Earth -- will find "Rush Hour 2" quite entertaining.

Unlike the 1998 movie, the sequel doesn't have to laboriously establish its Hong Kong and Los Angeles detective characters. It assumes from the first frame that we like this odd couple.

Nor does this one let the plot get in the way of Chan's set-piece fights and Tucker's verbal riffing.

The story starts out in Hong Kong, where a gangster (played by the insidiously elegant John Lone, back from career limbo 14 years after his famous performance in "The Last Emperor") and a vicious young hit woman with a heart-shaped face (Ziyi Zhang from "Crouching Tiger") are up to no good, possibly in association with a Donald Trump-like billionaire.

Our heroes then abruptly head to LA and Las Vegas for no other reason than Tucker's "Law of Criminal Investigation: Always follow the rich white man." (You may have already heard of this as "Stein's Law." Screenwriter-economist-game show host Ben Stein long ago pointed out that in any Hollywood whodunit, the richest and whitest suspect will almost always turn out to be the bad guy.)

Jackie Chan is, of course, one of the great figures in contemporary world cinema. The staggeringly inventive comic kung-fu stunts in his many Hong Kong movies frequently earn him comparison to Buster Keaton, the most brilliant slapstick artist of silent films.

Yet the stoic Keaton, who was nicknamed Old Stone Face, was never as popular as the loveable Charlie Chaplin. What helps make Chan a star of nearly Chaplinesque proportions in much of the world is that, unlike Keaton, he possesses one of the most likeable faces in movie history.

Oddly enough, Chan facially resembles Sylvester Stallone in the first "Rocky" movie, the Philadelphia underdog we could all identify with, before he became a Beverly Hills overdog.

Ultimately, for Chan's talents to be enjoyed by the maximum number of people, he had to come to Hollywood and make big-budget movies before he got too old to perform his own stunts.

In "Rush Hour 2," even at age 47 he remains in startling physical form, although an actor on the film told me that the great man used a double on a particularly brutal explosion stunt.

Only one little thing stood in the way of Chan's conquest of English language films. He can barely speak English. His line-readings in "Rush Hour 2" are better than ever, but stick around for the hilarious bloopers during the credits and watch him try to say "Madison Square Garden."

It's easy to pick on Hollywood, but you've got to give the film industry credit for coming up with a clever solution to the Jackie Chan Problem. Pair the tongue-tied action genius with an American motor mouth.

Chan's first comic partner was Tucker's boastful renegade cop in the awkward but novel "Rush Hour." Then came Owen Wilson's loquacious Old West train-robber with the soul of a New Age surfer in last year's terrific "Shanghai Noon."

Personally, I like this formula so much that I'd pay to see Chan fighting bad guys in tandem with a Valley Girl, a New York cabbie, a Chicago alderman, or any of the other garrulous stereotypes this great but extremely talkative nation produces.

The operative word is "stereotype." What made the first "Rush Hour" a global hit was the pairing of a Chinese guy with a black guy.

In "Rush Hour 2," Chris Tucker provides an amusing play-by-play on the countless ways African-Americans and Chinese tend to differ. Tucker's character is loud, assertive, fun-loving, egotistical, sexy and tall, while Chan's is quiet, shy, duty-bound, worried, cuddly and short.

As I've mentioned before, comedies aimed at a multiethnic audience are freer to explore racial and cultural differences than high-minded dramas marketed primarily to the white upper-middle class. Liberal whites like to believe that such differences are only skin-deep. Underneath, they assume, everybody is a white liberal.

The rest of the world generally finds this mindset condescending, ignorant and boring. Unlike most politically pious but humorless "multiculturalist" shows, "Rush Hour 2" earns its laughs because it genuinely does "celebrate diversity" -- precisely by taking racial and ethnic diversity seriously. The movie makes a strong case that racial variations are best viewed not as a shameful subject to be swept under the rug but as a source of endless delight.

"Rush Hour 2" is rated PG-13 for lots of bloodless fighting, some sexual innuendo, and the S-word.

 

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