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RUSH HOUR

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars: Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker
Director: Brett Ratner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Widescreen 2.35:1 Anamorphic Transfer
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 97 Minutes
Release Date: March 2, 1999

Film ***1/2

Rush Hour will probably forever hold a special place in my heart, for being the first movie with Jackie Chan to reach the blockbuster status of over $100 million at the box office here in America (he's the world's biggest movie star everywhere else). Okay, enough sentiment aside, on with the review.

Director Brett Ratner should probably be given credit for realizing the perfect American vehicle for Chan, by taking this script to him and suggesting that combining his quiet, polite manner and superb sense of physical action and comedy with the loud, brash, verbal comedy of Chris Tucker in an old fashioned buddy movie could be the ticket to the success in the States that always seemed to just elude him. He was right.

When a Chinese consul's daughter gets kidnapped and held for ransom by an Asian gang in the United States, the FBI is on the job. But the consul sends for the only man he trusts, Detective Li (Chan), a top Asian cop and long time friend. The FBI wants no interference, so they select a cop from the L.A.P.D., James Carter (Tucker), to keep Li away from the case. Carter is a good cop, but with the same penchant for trouble we've seen in the likes of Axel Foley and Murtaugh and Riggs.

Well, it's not exactly a match made in Heaven. Li is soft spoken, while Carter never shuts up. And Li turns out to be more than a handful for Carter, who can't seem to keep the honorable Asian cop from doing his duty.

Although this is standard buddy movie stuff, it works like a charm here for several reasons. One is the script, which is fast moving and funny, yet loose enough to let the two stars do what they do best. Tucker is a funny comic, and his barbs and one liners keep the story light and upbeat, and Chan does his amazing fighting and stuntwork to perfection, though a few extra nets and wires were used as precautions. After all, unlike Hong Kong, Hollywood studios can't afford to let their stars take the kind of unbridled risks Chan is used to, for fear of having to close down production for any length of time.

And second is the really terrific chemistry that develops between Chan and Tucker. These two guys, who at first glance seem to have nothing in common, are transformed into a terrific team by their desire to save the little girl. But beyond the story, there seems to be a natural magnetism between the two, in the "opposites attract" theory. Word is a sequel is in the works, and I say, bring it on.

Video ****

As usual, New Line delivers a reference quality disc. The images are sharp and bright throughout, with no evidence of grain or compression, even in the many night scenes. Colors are natural looking and well defined throughout, with no noticeable bleeding.

Audio ***

Being a loud action picture, the 5.1 soundtrack serves well and places you right in the middle of the foray.  The audio makes fairly full use of both front and rear stages, with plenty of dynamic range and some discretion to the .1 channel.  The dialogue is clean and clear throughout, but make no mistake, the highlight is the action, and it doesn't disappoint.

Features ****

This is a Platinum Series disc from New Line, and as such, the features are plentiful. There's a trailer, a director's commentary track, a couple of music videos, cast and crew info, a 45 minute documentary, a music only track, deleted scenes, and a short film by Ratner. The documentary was a real treat, as at one point, you get to see Chan at work in length, turning a simple problem of how to get a gun through a window into a delightful and memorable action packed fight seen. The man really is a genius.

Summary:

Rush Hour proved to America what the rest of the world has known for twenty years or so: nobody does action like Jackie Chan. This is a funny, exciting, charming formula movie that rests on the strengths of two leads who are more than capable.