It’s hard to think of a sadder commentary about Hollywood’s sequel fetish than the existence of Rush Hour 3. Dull, uninspired, and redundant, this third pointless movie in an action/comedy franchise that defines mediocrity doesn’t even try to disguise the fact that its existence is a money-grab. I wasn’t a fan of either previous Rush Hour film, but neither felt as tired and obligatory as this one. Aside from some amusing scenes with Chris Tucker and a nice d?j? vu dance routine to “War” performed by Tucker and Jackie Chan, this movie offers nothing that wasn’t done better in the other outings featuring these mismatched buddy cops.
The wafer-thin plot has Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) protecting a Chinese diplomat during his stay in Los Angeles. He has top-secret information about the Triad crime syndicate but, before he can divulge it, he is shot. Lee, reunited with his former partner, Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker), vows to the consul’s daughter, Soo Yung (Zhang Jingchu), that he will find the man who attacked her father. To do this, Lee and Carter must pursue Triad assassin Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada) to Paris, where they are aided by an anti-American cab driver named George (Yvan Attal), who discovers that he has a taste for car chases and gunplay.
As was true of Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2, this movie combines hit-and-miss comedy with lackluster action. The film doesn’t have much of a pulse, and the “excitement” comes across as pallid when compared to last week’s The Bourne Ultimatum (although at least the camera isn’t afflicted with the shakes). This movie is probably no more amusing than its predecessors, although it’s hard to be sure. Nothing in any of the Rush Hour products has been roll-on-the-floor funny, and this one is no different. Especially lame is a riff on “Who’s on First” that proves the stars of this movie have nothing on Abbot and Costello. There’s also a parody of emotional moments in buddy movies featuring Elton John’s “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word.” Maybe that’s supposed to be an apology to the audience by Brett Ratner. Also consider a scene featuring a lot of raw sewage that may on some level be a comment about where the franchise is headed.
On of the many areas in which the movie disappoints (although, all things considered, it isn’t unexpected), it’s in the lack of physicality displayed by Jackie Chan. At age 53, he can no longer perform the kinds of stunts that made him an international star. Putting life and limb at risk in the line of duty are things for younger men. Most of Chan’s most daring work has been passed on to stunt-men and there are hints of CGI (although not to the point where it’s distracting). The end-credit outtakes, which are typically a horror show of Chan’s muffed stunts, are limited here to verbal bloopers, messed-up lines, and the occasional minor pratfall. Chan’s gift for comedy appears as muted as his martial arts derring-do. At no time during Rush Hour 3 is he especially funny. My assumption has been that as Chan aged, he would gravitate more toward comedy, but this isn’t a good start.
Chris Tucker picks up a nice paycheck but none of the slack. However, while it’s a stretch to call him “likable,” at least he’s not as irritating as he was in Rush Hour and Rush Hour 2. Both Chan and Tucker are outmaneuvered in the comedy department by Yvan Attal, whose character’s love/hate relationship with American culture leads to some of the film’s wittiest (and I use that word loosely) scenes. Max von Sydow, in “concealed bad guy” mode, is on hand to do what he does best with that glorious bass voice. (Now that Bergman is officially in his grave, he can turn over.) And Roman Polanksi has a cameo as a French policeman who anally rapes Lee and Carter. (Yes, you read that correctly. A PG-13 movie features anal rape – although, of course, it’s only implied and is used to get a laugh.) Why Polanski would agree to play this part is anyone’s guess; it’s not the kind of thing that will help his less-than-sterling reputation. I kept waiting for Jean Reno to show up, since he always seems on hand in these English-speaking films set in France.
Does Rush Hour 3 deliver what audiences expect of it? Only its most devoted fans will say “yes.” The formula is in place but the performers are going through the motions. It’s a stale version of the previous movies, and they weren’t all that great to begin with. One could argue that director Brett Ratner at least invested Rush Hour with some energy. Even during the climactic battle at the Eiffel Tower, there’s nothing resembling that here. This is just another disposable summer movie – so lackluster that it’s not even worth searching out when it plays on television. The Rush Hour experience, which never attained anything resembling full speed, has come to a crashing halt.