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Thursday, 17 November 2016

Retro Review: Rush Hour (1998) #JackieChan

Rush Hour
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Tom Wilkinson, Chris Penn, Elizabeth Pena 
Genre: Buddy Action Comedy 
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $200 million 

Plot: When a Chinese diplomat's daughter is kidnapped in Los Angeles, he calls in Hong Kong Detective Inspector Lee to assist the FBI with the case. But the FBI doesn't want anything to do with Lee, and they dump him off on the LAPD, who assign wisecracking Detective James Carter to watch over him. Although Lee and Carter can't stand each other, they choose to work together to solve the case on their own, when they figure out they've been ditched by both the FBI and Police 

'So-So Lethal Weapon Meets Rumble In The Bronx Effort, Yet Far From Chan's Best'

Rush Hour is a 48 hrs meets Lethal Weapon meets kung fu hijinks affair in this Brett Ratner 1998 action-comedy effort where a pair of mismatched cops hailing from different cultures, who trade insults, remarks have to work together to rescue a young girl who has been kidnapped. 

Whilst I am pleased to see Jackie Chan achieving worldwide fame and success and attained a global recognition that not even the great Bruce Lee had achieved, career-wise, I have to say with regards to his U.S based movies, I do have a few reservations towards them. His transition to Hollywood has been incredible in such a way, and yet at the same time, this is questionable in terms of the quality of the output of the movies he's churned out. For newbies and people who just discovered Jackie's talents via Rush Hour, it's nice to see that they have been exposed to some of his trademark styles in acting, and in particular action comedy. They enjoy being amazed by some of the stunts he does and the moves he pulls off.

Having been exposed to his earlier stuff like Police Story 1 and 2, Drunken Master, My Lucky Stars and Project A, I can definitely say that Chan has done (far) better in those movies than in most of his Western offerings. Including this one and the subsequent Rush Hour sequels. Therefore, my level of disappointment in this film is more to do with that with Rush Hour, Jackie is half as good here as he was in Police Story for instance. We hold the likes of Western actors to account when it comes to quality movies, and with Jackie Chan, the same should apply to his movies as well, and in Rush Hour this isn't his very best. 

The film is very formulaic in as far as action martial arts movies and American martial arts movies go, with nothing really big or promising to set it apart and in this movie, Jackie is very much watered down from his Hong Kong efforts. Rush Hour feels more like Beverly Hills Cop meets Rumble In The Bronx and in most cases, for me, it is a disappointment. Some of the quality of the action and fight sequences here is far from the level that was in Police Story. Watching that final 40 mins or so of that fight in the shopping mall, the action in that entire scene was so relentless, fast-paced, frenetic, but also the action was not dumbed down: it was raw, it was hard impact stuff. Whereas the last 40 mins of Rush Hour wasn't as exciting and hard-hitting as I'd expected it to be and it was very trimmed down. A couple of his scenes were edited and trimmed down, much to his and the film's detriment. The stunts didn't make my jaw drop completely. Sadly, under Brett Ratner's direction he doesn't allow Jackie to be at his creative best, that as a result, his efforts in this film are sub-par at best.  

If only Hollywood had and would realise how much talent he has and just let him unleash it for the whole world to see and let Jackie make real and proper martial arts movies with their cash and ones as good as Police Story, Drunken Master

Having said all that, for a typically mainstream action comedy, Rush Hour achieves what it is set out to do - even if this is a very restrained Jackie Chan performance he gives here and the story itself wears extremely thin and is very convoluted. As for the humour, it's kind of okay, but nothing that made me go 'hahaha'. There is a racial subtext with some of the jokes, but it's more malicious than derogatory in tone. 

Meanwhile, Chris Tucker is an acquired taste - he is like a cross between Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock and acts as a wise guy to Chan's straight man role. Me personally, he's all right, in small doses. 

Jackie Chan once said that Hong Kong directors know action, whilst American directors know story when it comes to differences in action films, and I have got to say, I agree with him and that this notion rings true with the Rush Hour movies. 

Final Verdict

It's mainly viewers who aren't fans of Jackie Chan's movies that will lap this one up, more so than fans of his earlier work. I for one thought it wasn't anything particularly special and that Chan has done exceedingly better with the likes of Police Story. If you love Jackie Chan but have yet to see Police Story, I recommend that you do so. Okay, acting and dialogue-wise, it's nothing much to shout about, but the choreographed fight scenes and stunts are unlike anything you have seen in this movie. 

As an American film, and be it a martial arts Western comedy film per se, Rush Hour is arguably head and shoulders above most offerings.... however, this is not a typical Jackie Chan movie, standards-wise that I've come to expect from him & thus, compared to many of his earlier Hong Kong efforts, it pales in comparison by a long distance. 


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