Should I Watch..? Rush Hour 2
What's the big deal?
Rush Hour 2 is an action comedy film released in 2001 and is the second instalment in the Rush Hour series. The film sees stars Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan reprise as LAPD Detective James Carter and Chief Inspector Lee, respectively, this time on the trail of Triads in Hong Kong and Las Vegas. The film is directed by Brett Ratner and the supporting cast include Zhang Ziyi in her first American film, John Lone, Roselyn Sánchez, Alan King and an uncredited Don Cheadle. Despite mixed reviews, it became the most successful entry in the series so far with global takings in excess of $347 million - making it the most successful martial arts film in history. It would be followed by the sequel Rush Hour 3 in 2007.
What's it about?
Just four days after the events of the first film, Detective Carter has travelled to Hong Kong for a much needed holiday together with his friend Inspector Lee. However, a bombing at the US Consulate General kills two undercover customs agents and Lee is assigned to investigate. However, the case soon becomes personal as it appears that his late father's former partner Ricky Tan is involved with Tan suspecting of being a Triad boss. With Tan rumoured to have been involved with the death of Lee's father, Lee and Carter dig a little too deep and find themselves confronting Tan themselves.
However, Tan is shot and killed after asking for Lee's help while the Hong Kong police disagree with the US Secret Service about who has the proper jurisdiction. Carter is ordered back to LA and persuades Lee to accompany him in order to go after Carter's lead - a shady billionaire called Steven Reign who Carter witnessed in the vicinity of Tan's murder. With the duo heading back to the US, they are unaware that Tan's deputy Hu Li is already on their trail and has murderous intent on her mind...
Det. James Carter
US Secret Service Agent Isabella Molina
US Secret Service Agent Sterling
Don Cheadle (uncredited)
Jeff Nathanson *
Release Date (UK)
3rd August, 2001
Action, Comedy, Thriller
What's to like?
In much the same way as Lethal Weapon 2 differs from Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour 2 sticks very closely to the example laid down by the first film. Tucker and Chan are still a dynamite double act who can entertain in different ways - Tucker with his rapid one-liners, Chan with his Buster Keaton-style physicality. It's a genuinely intoxicating mix and gives the film a solid core with which to base itself around.
Part of the appeal of these buddy-cop formula films is that you know exactly what you're going to get and this film doesn't disappoint with its chop-socky action, glamorous girls and relatively easy-to-follow story. Sure enough, the film delivers - both of the leading ladies do a good job between the two leads and the story doesn't get too complicated, even if it does feel as though it's stretching the limits of plausibility. For the life of me, I can't recall why Don Cheadle's part was in the film or what linked him to the overall story - but his cameo is funny and surely, that's the point. Rush Hour 2 is a perfect example of the sort of action film that you don't need your brain to enjoy it. It might not be that clever but it's still fun.
- At the time, Zhang Ziyi could not speak English so she only says three words in the entire production. She tried learning English from Sánchez but she tried to discourage her as she would have ended up with a Puerto Rican accent.
- The Red Dragon casino was actually the Desert Inn resort in Las Vegas which was demolished in October 2001. Coincidentally, the next film Ratner directed was an adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon.
- The scene where Carter and Lee sprint down the street in Hong Kong naked was filmed for real - they didn't have permission to close the street down for the shoot.
What's not to like?
With Tucker and Chan essentially providing the core of the film, it's a little unfortunate that the balance of screen-time is disproportionally in Tucker's favour. His goofy arrogance seen in the first film has been replaced by the sort of person who shouts loudly in the faces of foreigners in order to make himself understood. He still has his moments but he seems to be on screen much more than Chan, whose wily antics I could never tire of watching. Hell, even Cheadle gets more laughs than Tucker and he's only on screen for a matter of minutes.
The film's very dependability also means that it doesn't throw too many surprises into the mix. There are no real risks taken with the film as though Ratner was content to let his two stars run riot in the belief that this was all that was required. The surprise of Rush Hour was how well Tucker and Chan combined as a double act - this film needed to provide more than a simple remake of the first film which it feels very much like. It could have been much better - imagine if the film provided the characters a chance to evolve and behave like actual police officers instead of comical characters in a second-rate video game.
Should I watch it?
Fans of the first film will enjoy this one just as much, that much is obvious. But Rush Hour 2 is still a well-made and highly polished slice of action comedy with the highly entertaining nucleus of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker in the middle. I just wished that it allowed a bit more material for Chan to get his teeth into and a bit less screen time for the increasingly annoying Tucker. Still, if it's not broke then why try to fix it?
Great For: fans of the first film, action junkies, renting for a boys' nights in
Not So Great For: fans of Chan's earlier career, Chris Tucker's detractors, people who take themselves too seriously
What else should I watch?
The first Rush Hour is a genuinely great little movie and a solid addition to an over-crowded genre. By contrast, the third film is a bit tired and unimaginative as Lee and Carter find themselves in Paris to conduct their own style of investigation into Triads there - don't ask me why because I can't remember. Once again, there is little to really improve the formula and after three outings, the film feels uninspired and even Tucker doesn't seem to be into it as much.
As for the opposition, you could take your pick of buddy-cop films to enjoy from Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys, Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in the mercurial Lethal Weapon series and Judge Reinhold riding Eddie Murphy's coat-tails in Beverly Hills Cop. Others include Arnold Schwarzenegger's Russian teaming up with James Belushi's cop in Red Heat or for something a little different, why not try Robert Downey Jr's wise-ass thief teaming up with Val Kilmer's brilliantly bitchy gay private eye in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang?
© 2016 Benjamin Cox