Rush Hour 3
2007Director: Brett Ratner
Cast: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Max von Sydow
or the three of you deciding whether or not to see this who might be swayed by a critic: it's about as funny as the last one, and while there are more annoyances, they're all politically fascinating. Most of the movie is set in Paris, so expect a climactic Eiffel Tower fight scene. Like the first two Rush Hours, it's directed by Brett Ratner, so don't expect that climax to be clearly shot. But it's still got Chris Tucker, and it's still got Jackie Chan.
There's not much left to be said about Chan. He's 53, he's a step slower than he was in Rush Hour 2, which is four steps slower than his Police Story peak, and you still can't take your eyes off him. The only other performer in the movie with half his grace is Creole-French model Noémie Lenoir. She's been following the well-trodden path from Victoria's Secret catalog to silver screen for several years, but this is her first major English-language role. She doesn't have much to do besides appear mysterious, but she accomplishes that beautifully.
With Zhang Jingchu as the Girl in Peril, and Youki Kudoh as the Evil Assassiness (called, wait for it, the Dragon Lady), the franchise continues its streak of casting in all meaningful female roles only women of appropriate color—not too white, not too black. It's Hollywood practice to cast actors who appeal to multiple audiences, and actresses who don't turn off any of those audiences. To quote no less an authority than Will Smith: “There's sort of an accepted myth that if you have two black actors, a male and a female, in the lead of a romantic comedy, that people around the world don't want to see it... So the idea of a black actor and a white actress comes up—that’ll work around the world, but it's a problem in the U.S.” I'm certainly glad the actresses in this movie were able to get work, but it's cowardly casting—especially since Brett Ratner dated a Williams sister.
Whatever, the actresses are but sideshows: it's Chan and Tucker who end up dancing off into the night. Yet even this third time around, their banter doesn't snap like it should, which is slightly more the fault of Tucker, who's never had screen chemistry with anyone since Ice Cube. He gets his laughs, though, the funniest being a routine with martial artists Yu and Mi. It's surprising to hear that old gag from a guy who's long practiced the comedy of transgression Sasha Baron Cohen and Sarah Silverman are routinely praised for inventing—of course that style of humor dates back at least to Richard Pryor and Lenny Bruce. But where Pryor's and Eddie Murphy's Hollywood runs relegated their racial material to the inoffensive and the implied, in the first and especially the second Rush Hour, Tucker successfully brought ethnic slurs to mainstream comedy.
It was always winking, so it was never objectionable. But Rush Hour 3 has its unsettling moments. We find out Tucker's been knocked down to traffic duty because he arrested a group of Iranians as terrorists. Though they turned out to be UCLA scientists, he still argues he did the right thing. That's one of W's preferred methods of denying national disgrace: turn it into a joke.
The other way is to project it on to other countries. In the weirdest moment of the movie summer, Roman Polanski shows up as a cop who, when our heroes arrive in Paris, has them arrested and beaten. Then he himself searches their anal cavities. Because we all know it's those damned French who are the ones treating foreigners like animals! Wasn't there a riot in Paris a couple of years ago?
There is one thing about the movie that's cleverer than anyone involved realizes, and that's the taxi driver character played by Yvan Attal. At first he refuses to transport the Americans, assailing them for Vietnam and Iraq and their nation's belief in violence as a solution. A car chase later, and all he wants is to be a U.S. agent, to kill someone for no good reason. Contrary to what Philip Roth or Johnny Cash might argue, this isn't an all-American desire. Instead, the movie, like so many blockbusters, provides an answer to the Edwin Starr question once again posed on the soundtrack. War, that's what it's good for.
Rush Hour 3 is now in wide release.
By: Brad Luen
Published on: 2007-08-14