Plenty of films are conceived with an eye toward a ready-made sequel. Rush Hour, the 1998 fish-out-of-water chop-socker that finally made Jackie Chan a household name outside the houses of action-flick fans, is exhibit A. That film, which paired Chan's super-fast fists with Chris Tucker's jive-talking, took place mostly in Los Angeles. Its sequel capitalizes on the tantalizing plotline its predecessor left dangling: the chance to drop Tucker high and dry in Hong Kong.
So Rush Hour 2 picks up right where the first one left off, with Tucker's Detective James Carter spending his vacation hangin' with Chan's no-nonsense Detective Lee on the latter's home turf. The plot, such as it is, embroils our detectives in terrorist bombings, counterfeit schemes and Hong Kong gang wars ' not that Rush Hour 2 gives such developments more than a brushstroke or two. Oh, no, they're off the case! Oh, no, a double-cross! Yeah, whatever: Just bring on the next fight sequence.
We just can't seem to get enough of mismatched, interracial buddy flicks like this. 48 HRS sent us on a second two-day jaunt with Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 1990. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson spawned four Lethal Weapon films, overstaying their welcome by at least one sequel. While each of these series boasted sounder plotting and deeper characterization than either Rush Hour film, neither pairing matches Chan and Tucker for pure, breezy fun. It's not that the two have much chemistry ' neither, frankly, is that great at anything but solo work ' but the juxtaposition of their caricatures has, at times, a snap and crackle that's entertaining to watch.
48 HRS is best remembered for the scene in which Murphy sautÃs the regulars in that redneck bar. Rush Hour 2 has a much clumsier touch, playing its Asian and African American cultural stereotypes for broad, non-PC laughs. "I'll bitch-slap you back to Bangkok," Tucker shrieks, seconds after his character has made a crack about eating dog the night before.
Chan has fewer such barbs, and that's a good thing; he's content to play for laughs against his punch-'em-up image. "Girls like me," Lee says. "They think I'm cute, like Snoopy."
He may be onto something. Chan is probably the closest thing Hollywood has to a cuddly action hero, but he's more like the Energizer Bunny than Snoopy. At 47, the guy's doing his own stunts (well, most of them, anyway). And while the novelty of his elaborately choreographed fight scenes wore off several films back ' how many different ways can he use ottomans and wastebaskets to club bad guys? ' they're still thrilling to watch. Unfortunately, Chan also has to fight Brett Rattner's camera, which bleeds some of the whiz-bang out of the action sequences.
The supporting cast is stellar. John Lone appears as a sly villain who once partnered with Lee's father. Zhang Ziyi, late of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, is on hand as an explosives-loving assassin whose high-heeled kicks prove the only thing capable of derailing Tucker's motor-mouth.
Rush Hour 2 won't set the action world ablaze, but it won't make you feel like setting yourself ablaze to escape it. It's also ' you guessed it ' a film conceived with an eye toward a three-quel. "Damn. He won't be comin' back for Rush Hour 3," Tucker quips as a goon falls to his death during the series of outtakes that close all Chan's films. Maybe not, but it's a safe bet that the rest of us will.