Rush Hour 3

Reviewed By Peter Sobczynski
Posted 08/10/07 00:00:00

"Like Freedom Fries, Only Dumber"
1 stars (Sucks)

I was about to start off this review by remarking that the summer movie season kicked off with a disappoint threequel (“Spider Man 3”—you remember that one, don’t you?) and, with the arrival of “Rush Hour 3,” would be closing down in much the same manner. However, to say that would suggest that this film somehow marks a steep decline in quality from the previous entries in the series and neither of those earlier efforts were much of anything in the first place. 1998’s “Rush Hour” had the brilliant idea of bringing in singular action star Jackie Chan—one of the most unique performers around—and sticking him in an anonymous property in which he would play second-fiddle to the braying antics of Chris Tucker while rarely getting a chance to show off the amazing physical moves that made him famous in the first place. 2001’s “Rush Hour 2” was more of the same and committed the additional sin of thoroughly wasting the gifts of Ziyi Zhang in a nothing supporting villainess role. “Rush Hour 3,” by comparison, is a film that is as inspired as its title might suggest and one so smugly made and dramatically incoherent that to describe it as lazy hackwork would be an insult to the phrase “lazy hackwork.”

As the film kicks off, Lee (Chan) is once again serving as the chief bodyguard for the Chinese ambassador (as he did in the first film) and Carter (Tucker) has been inexplicably busted back to being a traffic cop, apparently only so that he can inspire a number of expensive and pointless car crashes while hitting on Liv Tyler’s sister. Before we can ask why these characters have returned to the jobs they had back in the first film, the ambassador is the victim of an assassination attempt just before he is about to reveal the existence of a secret list of Triad family leaders to members of the World Criminal Court. Lee catches up with the shooter but is unable to bring him to justice when he discovers that it is Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), his long-lost “brother” from the orphanage where they grew up. After the wacky torture of another suspect, Lee and Carter get a lead on those responsible for the attempted hit that takes them to Paris and leads them into a series of wacky confrontations involving sewers, secret tattoos and a sexy showgirl (Noemie Lenoir) who has intimate knowledge of the list and its whereabouts. I wouldn’t dream of revealing who the mastermind behind the entire plot is—really I wouldn’t—but I will also note that Max Von Sydow (yes, Max Von Sydow) does up as the friendly and ingratiating head of the World Criminal Court who is eager to help Carter and Lee retrieve that list.

Yes, friends, this is the complex narrative that fans of the “Rush Hour” series—such people presumably exist, though I have yet to meet one in the flesh—have been waiting for since the second film came out over six years ago. Even by the standards of cruddy action-packed buddy-comedy sequels, the storyline cooked up by Jeff Nathanson this time around is especially lame—maybe a third of the 90-minute running time is dedicated to pesky plot matters and maybe half of that turns out to be superfluous in the end. (The film takes the trouble to reintroduce the now-grown girl whose kidnapping drove the plot of the original film, sets her up as a presumably important player in the proceedings and then forgets about her until she is trotted out in the final reel as a dangling damsel in distress.) The rest of the time is dedicated to extraneous fight scenes (our heroes getting into a wacky battle in a karate school for reasons that escape me), extraneous car chases (fueled by an anti-America cab driver who suddenly becomes as red-white-and-blue as Dick Cheney after getting his first taste of U.S.-style violence) and a inexplicable subplot in which Carter falls for the showgirl (which is not that inexplicable once you get a load of her) and then becomes convinced that she is actually a man because. . . get this!. . . she wears a wig! Of course, not all of the previous players have returned and the way that they explain the absence of Roselyn Sanchez, who was Lee’s would-be girlfriend in the last film, is particularly deranged—it turns out that Carter. . .get this!. . .shot her and this wounding broke up the relationship and caused a rift between the former pals. If this is the screenplay that finally convinced the rest of the “Rush Hour” participants to reunite for another big payday, I shudder to contemplate what the rejected versions must have been like.

That is one aspect of “Rush Hour 3” that isn’t funny in the least bit. Here is another one—Chris Tucker. Although I sort of admired his bizarre shtick in “The Fifth Element”—partly because he is at least supposed to be playing the most obnoxious person in the universe and partly because his singular behavior seemed at one with the weirdo aesthetic that Luc Besson created—and he wasn’t too annoying in his brief turn in “Jackie Brown” (most because his one scene ended with him getting shot in a car trunk), his comedic appeal is otherwise completely lost on me. His basic comic approach is to stroll into the middle of the scene and start screaming like an obnoxious jerk, often in a screechy falsetto voice, while the rest of the visibly uncomfortable actors stand around and wait for him to finish his bit so that they can proceed with the story. If you encountered such behavior, you would want to silently slink away to avoid the embarrassment of seeing someone in what appeared to be the throes of a sad mental breakdown—when you encounter it here in your local multiplex, I can almost guarantee that you will have virtually the same reaction. While it is bad enough when Tucker ruins already-uninspired scenes with his capering, it is even worse when moments that might have had promise in the hands of others—such a bit where he blithely stumbles into a game of baccarat without having any idea of how to actually play baccarat—are sabotaged by his antics to such a degree that you can almost hear the rest of the cast and crew begging Brett Ratner to call “cut” and end the travesty.

As for Ratner, “Rush Hour 3” marks the continuation of one of the more inexplicable directorial careers in recent memory—how to account for Hollywood’s willingness to continually hire someone whose filmography is so artistically paltry that the woeful “After The Sunset” is pretty much the high-water mark and that is only because of the sight of Salma Hayek in a tiny black bikini? Once again, he approaches his material with a lot of flash—plenty of quick cuts and swirling cameras—but virtually no flair. As an action filmmaker, he still has little clue as to how to stage an execute a fight scene in a way that generates even a trace amount of excitement—the final battle takes place atop the Eiffel Tower (a location that, based on the geography supplied by this movie, appears to be only two blocks away from where the other characters are at all times) but you never get any sense of the giddy vertiginous thrills that a competent filmmaker might have brought to the proceedings. (If only Jackie Chan in his heyday had been given such an opportunity to stage such a battle.) The comedic scenes are equally incompetent—he trots out jokes that were in mothballs long before he was born (such as the wacky confusion inspired by the questioning of a couple of Asian named Yu and Mei) and then drags them out to such lengths that you may find yourself screaming “Get On With It!” from the audience. The only scene in the film that demonstrates any discernible style or flair is an effective nightclub number in which a battalion of scantily-clad cuties strut around to the strains of the Serge Gainsbourg-Brigitte Bardot Europop classic “Bonnie & Clyde 1967”—it would appear that Ratner has finally found his level as a director and if he chooses to pursue it, France’s loss (at least in regards to Parisian cabarets) will truly be Hollywood’s gain.

I see that I have yet to mention the most unexplainable and soul-crushing element of all the unexplainable and soul-crushing elements on display in “Rush Hour 3” and that would be the brief, unbilled appearance by Roman Polanski as the creepy Parisian chief of police. Yeah, you heard me. Roman Polanski—the guy who made “Repulsion,” “Tess” and “The Pianist” and who is arguably one of the world’s greatest living filmmakers. I know that he has acted in the past, both in his own films as well as for others, and many of those performances have displayed a silly side that is not often on display in his directorial work. That said, I cannot imagine what could have possessed him to pick up this screenplay—one in which the first of his two scenes involves him strapping on some rubber gloves in order to probe our heroes and in which the second sees him kissing them and getting punched out in retaliation—and say “Yes, this is the one I have been waiting for” in a move that will probably go down as the least-sensible decision of his entire career. Of course, the mere presence of Polanski may turn numerous viewers off who feel that he has not yet been adequately punished for his crimes of thirty years ago. To that, all I can say is that having one’s good name and reputation stained by its association with a product as flimsy and shameful as “Rush Hour 3” is more than enough of a karmic payback.

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