Rush Hour 3 (2007)

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Rush Hour 3
Dir. Brett Ratner
Premiered July 30, 2007

Whatever you might say about the actual quality of Rush Hour 1 and 2, they had a respectable glitz about them. The unexpectedly profitable buddy-cop teamup of martial arts stalwart Jackie Chan and annoying comedian Chris Tucker paid dividends around the turn of the millennium, with 2001’s Rush Hour 2 being particularly popular among those who were just buying their first DVD players. One of those buyers was me, and I devoured Rush Hour 2, not so much for the movie itself, but the gorgeous behind-the-scenes footage that made a compelling case for visiting Hong Kong. So while Brett Ratner is a creepy, mean-spirited hack, and Chris Tucker’s voice makes most people’s ears bleed, the Rush Hour franchise still manages to engage and entertain.

Astonishingly, Rush Hour 3 is not worthy even of this modest legacy.

Detective Carter (Tucker) was always a casually racist horndog, but here he’s taken into irredeemable garbage. Depending on your reading of his first scene, he’s either casually corrupt or a habitual sexual harasser. He’s been demoted to a traffic cop after (1) handcuffing two innocent women in order to commandeer their vehicle for a chase and (2) arresting six Iranian scientists without cause purely because of their nationality. When he reunites with Lee (Chan), it’s revealed that he also shot Lee’s girlfriend.

Lee is his normal nice self, but doesn’t have much fun. He accompanies the Chinese Ambassador (Tzi Ma) to the “World Criminal Court” (is the ICC trademarked?), on a mission to coordinate a global crackdown on the Chinese triads with Judge Reynard (Max Von Sydow), when said triads attempt to assassinate the Ambassador and target his daughter (Jingchu Zhang). When it’s discovered that the assassins hail from France, Lee and Carter travel to Paris where they discover a conspiracy involving a burlesque superstar (Noémie Lenoir) and Lee’s Japanese foster-brother (Hiroyuki Sanada).

Lest that sound complicated, rest assured that Rush Hour 3’s plot could barely sustain a single episode of Psych, resulting in the most stretched-out hour and a half I’ve seen since Perfect Stranger. And as screenwriter Jeff Nathanson apparently couldn’t come up with any jokes to fill in the gaps, director Brett Ratner is content to play elementary school theatre-level renditions of Rush Hour 2’s greatest hits, like an agonizing “Who’s On First” routine, a mention of gefilte fish referencing the outtakes in the credits from the previous movie. His most original flourishes are a climax lifted directly from The Great Mouse Detective and a special appearance by fugitive filmmaker Roman Polanski which pokes fun at the fact that he’s a convicted rapist. Forget bad taste, I’m surprised Polanski himself would agree to such a thing.

But it’s got Jackie Chan, so the action is good, right? Well, Chan may be up to the task, but Rush Hour 3 isn’t. Consider a fight with a dragon lady (Youki Kidoh) whose weapon of choice is a decorative fan full of CGI throwing knives and also somehow works like a boomerang. And is there a weirder combination than martial arts stuntwork and non-dynamic camera movement? Because Rush Hour 3 has some of the most sluggish cinematography since the heyday of Chuck Norris. Even the coloration is off throughout the movie; the rich colors of the first two films are curiously faded.

The Rush Hour movies were always crude and obnoxious, but this is the Happy Madison version. Whatever meager dignity previously existed in spite of Chris Tucker’s insuffrable blathering is gone. What’s left is so pointless, phoned in, and hateful that you wonder whether Ratner and company were trying to send a message that nobody got.

Signs This Was Made in 2007
Barry Bonds and Lance Armstrong get namedropped. Cab driver Georges (Yvan Attal) initially refuses to drive Carter because he’s American and the Iraq War is a thing, and bemoans having to fight the Triads with him and Li because “the French are neutral.” One of the major players in the film is a neo-burlesque star.

Additional Notes
I could’ve sworn one of the extras was improv veteran David Pasquesi.

How Did It Do?
Six years removed from its latest installment, Rush Hour 3 was yet another disappointment for New Line Cinema. Grossing $258 million worldwide, it managed to crack the top 20 that year, but failed to recoup its marketing budget. And while the other films had received mixed-to-positive reviews, Rush Hour 3 was savaged, earning a dismal 18% rating on RottenTomatoes. Ratner and his producers have continued to talk up the possibility of a sequel, but having already made the most perfunctory sequel imaginable, it’s a mystery why they would want to. Ultimately, the franchise was re-tooled as a CBS television series, but it too was poorly-received and ultimately canceled.

Rush Hour 3 made a lot of bottom-ten lists, but not mine. Because if you thought this was bad…

Next Time: D-War

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