- The Washington Times - Friday, August 3, 2001

"Rush Hour 2" looks suspiciously like a rush job, although three years have passed since the prototype, a rousing trifle, matched Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker as an international and interracial crime-fighting team.
Not that it matters, but the sequel is supposed to be a days-later continuation of the original, which ended with Mr. Chan's character, Inspector Li of the Hong Kong police, flying back home, accompanied by Mr. Tucker's character, Detective James Carter of the Los Angeles Police Department, anticipating a Far East vacation. So the new movie begins in Hong Kong, where Carter supposedly is an unhappy guest, annoyed that his host is devoting himself to duty rather than the amusement of his newfound buddy.
Evidently, what would appease Carter on a daily basis would be immersion in the massage parlor or brothel culture of Hong Kong. Bleating complaints about this take up inordinate space on the soundtrack. The exuberance and playfulness of the original seem to give way to noise and bravado and coarseness in the follow-up, and much of the shifting burden is entrusted to Carter's flapping mouth so much so that it might be merciful if the film were played silent.
Mr. Chan supposedly is distracted by a flurry of package bombings at American diplomatic offices in Hong Kong. One even threatens to shatter Li's eardrums. A diabolical triad is masterminding the crimes for reasons that remain obscure until the denouement, staged at a new casino in Las Vegas supposedly financed with laundered triad funds.
The Hong Kong start proves a melodramatic and scenic irrelevance once the plot leapfrogs to Los Angeles and then Vegas, but every setting looks garishly ugly.
Perhaps an exceptionally tacky screening print was inflicted on Washington, but much of the imagery lingered in a grungy blue-and-white spectrum that seemed to diminish every performer, interior and location. It's as if someone got a deal on surplus stock that had been deteriorating in a warehouse since the 1970s.
Mr. Tucker cut a leaner figure in the original, where Carter also was allowed to keep his mouth shut from time to time. His flirtatious pretensions met a funny form of resistance in Elizabeth Pena as a cynical colleague who glared daggers whenever Carter got frisky.
Weight work seems to have bulked up Mr. Tucker in the interim, and no one is permitted to bust his chops in a timely way, apart from the villains who aim karate kicks at his head or his stunt double's head. As a result, there's a newly overbearing Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour 2" who may prove unbearable to spectators who believe that a little of his brashness goes a long way.
Even Mr. Chan's stunt sequences seem second-rate, commencing with a climb up the scaffolding of an apartment building that looks promising at first glance. The upward maze doesn't inspire as many clever acrobatic brainstorms and payoffs as one expects from Mr. Chan, who also leaves himself dangling with a weak escape gag.
The restaurant donnybrook and climb to the rafters of an art center in "Rush Hour" were demonstrably superior. The well is bound to run dry after a while. "Rush Hour 2" evidently reflects a serious drought.
The supporting cast includes Alan King as a triad bigshot of some kind, Don Cheadle as a Chinese restaurant owner in Los Angeles and Zhang Ziyi, the superlative ingenue of "Crouching Dragon, Hidden Tiger" and "The Road Home," as a triad cutthroat. Only Mr. Cheadle seems to be in diverting form. Maybe Inspector Li could use a new partner.
Why not one with a vested interest in Asian business and culture? Several new brooms are needed to deal with all the cobwebs and all the slack that litter "Rush Hour 2."


*
TITLE: "Rush Hour 2"
RATING: PG-13 (Fleeting profanity and comic vulgarity; occasional sexual allusions; graphic violence in a slapstick martial-arts context)
CREDITS: Directed by Brett Ratner. Written by Jeff Nathanson.
RUNNING TIME: About 90 minutes

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