Brett Ratner must thank his lucky stars every couple of years for the sheer dumb luck brilliance of this first movie, which allowed for several lackluster sequels to rake in the dough from folks (like myself) hoping they’d re-capture some of the magic that was the original Rush Hour. True, there were moments in the latter films, but by the 3rd installment the director and series had wrung every ounce out of the franchise.
But let us not dwell in that negativity. I do not care what any critic, ranking or other person thinks, Rush Hour is one of my all-time favorite movies and one befitting of this ‘Lost Hours’ category. I stay for a specific scene, then flip away. Only to flip back periodically, hoping to catch a specific moment I remembered. Let me make this clear: I adore Jackie Chan. He is not only one of the most truly entertaining actors of my lifetime, but by all accounts a great guy as well. One of my favorite early movie-watching memories, right after Papa G-Dub squared sitting me down to watch From Russia With Love, is renting Jackie Chan’s First Strike and The Legend of Drunken Master from the video store and watching them back-to-back one cold night, then watching First Strike again the next day. He gets my forever seal of approval. His ability for the better part of a decade to be funny, deadpan and kick-ass was unmatched, in my opinion (My love for The Rundown will tell you who took over this title post-2000). Watch him run up something sometime and try not to smile. The pool hall scene in Rush Hour perfectly demonstrates Chan’s ability to kick butt in the most entertaining fashion.
Chan’s partner in crime(solving) is also on-point in RH. Infrequently in movies now, let us remember: Chris Tucker was funnnnnnny. Really funny. Friday he was great. And The Fifth Element he was… greatly weird. But in Rush Hour, he ping pongs off of Chan, the perfect balance to Chan’s earnest deadpans. Whereas Tucker is all frenetic energy and chatter, Chan delivers his action and lines in a calculated manner, making the duo all the more fun. The movie could be dumb (Ratner is no ‘auteur,’ however RH is not) but instead works because of this odd couple pairing. Look at one of my favorite scenes:
This cracks me up every time I watch. I cannot quite say why (I will say this – my guess is Jackie Chan could dance just fine). The two leads make this a movie I always go back to, despite any other flaws.
These ‘flaws’ are really more of a mixed blessing. The more I thought about this movie as I wrote it up, I realized there was actual something quite clever in the mashing up of some very cliched, well-worn action movie types and running with them. They had Jackie Chan, after all. Jackie Chan stunts, gun fights, gangsters, characters’ heroic fathers, foreign dignitaries – the movie hits all the generic notes. These notes are filled in and accentuated by the afore-praised leads. The staccato Tucker and cool Chan not only amuse in their interactions but also create great physical comedy and visual gags by being so similar but different. A great example? This fight sequence, complete with appropriate Jackie Chan sound effects. Or how about when they have a childish fight about whose dad could beat up the other dad? It’s silly, but I like it.
Actors like Tom Wilkinson (aka Carmine Falcone) and Chris Penn (a classically trained goofy gangster side-character) help raise this movie from the mess of buddy-cop action-comedies thrown together over the years. Is this movie going into the Criterion Collection? No. Do I watch at least part of Rush Hour every time it is on (edited) TBS or TNT? You’d better believe it. The whole thing if I find it uncensored. Complete with an epic, epic Jackie Chan end batte (visually, a really, really cool fight scene.), I can chalk up a great many lost hours to this favorite of my youth.
Furthermore, Rush Hour was one of the first movies I ever saw with a gag reel at the end, and many bits still slay me today. It also proves Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker had a blast making this movie. So aways remember: Take any and all opportunities to yell “who you think you got… Chelsea Clinton?!?”