Monday, November 22, 2010

Three Years Too Late: Did You Like Rush Hour 1 and 2? Then You'll Probably Enjoy Rush Hour 3

Thank God for the public library. I am always extolling the virtues of my library card, not the least of which is that I can get free books, movies, CDs, etc., in instances where I really don't care to spend the $2.00-$30.00 those items would usually set me back. Such was certainly the case with Rush Hour 3, a film that I would probaby have seen in the theaters in summer of 2007, but just didn't make time for in the midst of all the other shit I was trying to catch up /spend money on at that time. When I made a trip to the library this Saturday and saw Rush Hour 3 sitting out on an end-cap FEATURED section, I had to pick it up. For I Heart Sequels it seemed like a must.

Most of my argument for the success of this third film can be found right there in the title of this article. Seriously, if you liked the two previous films, I can't imagine why you wouldn't at least enjoy this one. Sure the plot points seem altogether a little too perfunctory and you can see the twists and turns coming from a mile away. But the highlight of these films has always been the high-energy combination of Chris Tucker's big mouth and Jackie Chan's even bigger kicks. On that point, the film delivers.

In this installment, Carter and Lee, through happenstance of the kind that exploits PG-13 levels of sexuality and violence, find themselves in Paris (that's France, not Texas) looking for the linking thread that unifies the greatest criminal conspiracy in the world, the Triads. Recently, Lee's good friend Ambassador Han was the target of a botched assassination attempt. The assassination is linked to what could be the reigning head of the Triad, a figure nobody has ever seen, but everybody has heard of. Long story short, that's what they're looking for in Paris and that in and of itself is all the movie is really "about".

In actuality, like the other Rush Hour films, this rather uncomplicated plot is the excuse the filmmakers need to string together scenes of Jackie kicking ass and Chris trying to score some ass, all while throwing in the kind of incidental humor that finds Roman Polanski sticking his hand's up both Jackie and Chris' asses. You have to chuckle at Brett Ratner, one of the skeeviest dudes in Hollywood, deciding to use Roman Polanski, participant in one of cinema's most notorious sex scandals, in a scene reeking of gay panic, wherein Polanski is a French police officer who goes digging frivolously in our heroes' asses, just to make a point about the French officer asserting his dominance over two hot-shot American cops. This brief moment is a supernova of sleaze just collapsing in on itself.

Again, it's all pretty par for course. You know that Max Von Sydow is a bad guy, just by looking at the first film's dramtic beats. You know the Chinese gal is up to no good, based on Rush Hour 2's rather wasteful use of Zhang Ziyi as a mute villainess. All this and more can be seen from miles away if you are familiar enough with the first two films. And why wouldn't you be if you're watching this one. But I don't think that's a strike against the film.

When I was thinking about it during and after the film, I realized that the Rush Hour films stick to a formula much in the same way the James Bond films stick to a formula. That's the best corollary I can come up with as to why there is absolutely nothing wrong with RH3's lack of ambition beyond finding a plot the filmmakers can use to hang on as many Jackie Chan fight scenes and Chris Tucker horny brotha gags. If that's your thing, and it is mine, then RH3 is all the better for it. Much like we go into a Bond film knowing that what doesn't matter is what Bond does but how he gets it done, we know that we can expect certain things from these Rush Hour films, all while they try to up some of the spectacle and the settings.

Rush Hour 3's Parisian location allows for some new quirky characters, a hilarious escape through the shit of the city's famed sewers, a ridiculous rescue scene set in an over-the-top burlesque show and, finally, a thrilling final confrontation set atop the Eiffel Tower. Couple that with Ratner's reliably straight-forward action staging and Lalo Schiffrin's driving funk score (again, very reminiscent of his work on Enter the Dragon, et al) and you have the makings of a seriously fun time for fans of the films. Anybody who didn't like it before ain't gonna like it now. Much like if you think one Bond film is silly you'll probably find them all pretty silly. There's grading on a curve here; Bond has been around for much, longer, been in many films, and has been portrayed by an incredible number of diverse actors. Of course over time some things may change, but with Bond movies you pretty much know what you're getting into. Just wait until they get to Rush Hour 7 or when they try to replace the leads with someone comparable. You'll see what I mean.


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