Less a sequel than a remake of the first “Rush Hour,” this version sets itself up to be the next “Lethal Weapon” franchise by meticulously repeating all of the elements of the first one. Those elements are: one motor mouth LA cop named Carter (Chris Tucker), one stoic kick-boxing Hong Kong cop named Lee (Jackie Chan), and a microscopic plot that moves the story along without distracting audiences or the performers too much from the fights, explosions, and wisecracks.
The problem with any sequel to a movie like this is that once we have already spent one movie getting the characters to respect and trust one another, it is difficult to create much dramatic tension. The plot is just as thin as the first one, but inherently less compelling. In “Rush Hour,” the plot centered on an adorable kidnapped child; in this one it is something about counterfeit money. Tucker’s comic riffs and Chan’s balletic fight scenes are mildly entertaining, but have a synthetic feel.
The high points include a fight staged in a massage parlor and the pyrotechnic contributions of “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s” Zhang Ziyi. She doesn’t float through the air this time, but she has the same defiant pout. Her screen presence is electric, even in Mandarin. Don Cheadle shows up for a brief scene that reminds us of what real acting looks like. The best part of the movie is the outtakes shown during the final credits, which give us an even better sense of the chemistry between Chan and Tucker than the movie does. Maybe “Rush Hour 3″ will be all outtakes – that would be a sure hit.
Parents should know that the movie has a lot of action violence and comic peril. That means that the fight scenes are not very graphic. In almost cartoon-style fashion, characters get beat up badly and then are shown in the next scene without any wounds. School-age kids who see this movie may get unrealistic ideas about the consequences of fighting. The movie also has some strong language, sexual innuendo, and a massage parlor scene in which Tucker is allowed to choose from an array of girls and selects several of them.
Families who see this movie should talk about how we decide whom to trust and the risks that undercover operatives must take. They may also want to talk about the challenges of making friends with people from other cultures and the way that Carter and Lee tease each other about the differences between blacks and Asians.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy the original and some of Chan’s other movies, like Shanghai Noon.