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RUSH HOUR 2

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Alan King, Roselyn Sanchez, Harris Yulin, Zhang Ziyi
Director:  Brett Ratner
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1, DTS
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio:  New Line Cinema
Features:  See Review
Length:  91 Minutes
Release Date:  December

(Carter speaks in Cantonese to a large crowd.)

“What did I just say?”

“You asked them to pull out their samurai swords and shave your butt.”

Film ***1/2

Rush Hour 2 is that rarest of cinematic rarities…a sequel that lives up to, if not surpasses, the original.

Teaming Asian action superstar Jackie Chan with American smart aleck comic Chris Tucker was a stroke of genius in the first movie…the quiet, reserved, fast moving Chan and the loud, brash BS artist Tucker were perfect foils for one another, and made for one of the best, funniest, and most entertaining buddy movies in years.

It was also successful…in fact, it made for Jackie Chan’s biggest American box office numbers in his entire career.  So successful, in fact, that the only thing to do was to do it again.

When we last left Hong Kong Inspector Lee (Chan) and LAPD Detective Carter (Tucker), they were on their way to the Far East for a little R&R.  That vacation, however, gets cut short when a bomb explodes at the American Embassy in Hong Kong.  The blame is laid squarely at the feet of Triad gang leader (and Lee’s old nemesis) Ricky Tan (Lone).  But the plot is not so cut and dried.

As Lee and Carter get themselves into one mishap after another trying to break the case, they also have to deal with two beautiful but dangerous women…Isabella (Sanchez), who may or may not be who she says she is, and Hu Li (Ziyi, the amazing young star of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), who is a quick and deadly assassin.

It turns out the CIA is on the trail of some counterfeit “superbills”…bills printed with an actual US Mint printing press, and almost indistinguishable from the real thing.  Carter suspects hotel magnate Steven Reign (King), because in cases like that, you “always follow the rich white guy.”

Chan and Tucker proved to be the right combination for delivering action and laughs in the first film.  Here, they do it even more so.  The fight sequences are peppered throughout, and Chan, now in his late 40s, shows no sign of slowing down as he wages an amazingly acrobatic brawl on a tall bamboo scaffolding, uses everything around him as a weapon in a massage parlor.  As is always the case in a Chan movie, he shows us at least one stunt we’ve never seen before.  This time, he squeezes through the tiny slot of a pay window at a casino like he was jumping through a wide open door.

And Tucker is even more fast and furious in the sequel…his best scenes involve selecting his masseuses at the parlor, or playing big time craps with $1,000 chips at a ritzy casino table.  For those not used to his sometimes shrill and motormouth stylings, it may take some adjusting…for those of us who have followed Tucker’s career, this is one of its shining moments.

The finale, which I won’t give away, is a tremendous triumph for the stars and for director Ratner…one amazing, hilarious topper after another which will have you laughing in amazement.

The chemistry between Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker was the most crucial element of the first movie.  It worked then, and it works even more so now.  The quiet Jackie seems less like a straight man here, and more than capable of holding his own with Chris’ wild bantering.  Likewise, Tucker isn’t all talk in this film…he handles a couple of fight scenes with improving skill (including a memorable one near the end with Ziyi, who is, of course, too much for him).  Like the best co-stars, it seems that Jackie and Chris have been teaching and learning from one another.

I know some critics dismissed this picture…frankly, I don’t think they gave it a fair shot.  I went in with no preconceived notions, and found it to be one of the most fun times I’ve had at the movies this year.  Jackie Chan’s fast hands and Chris Tucker’s fast words combine in cinematic alchemy to make movie gold.

Rush Hour 3 is tentatively scheduled for 2004.  I say…bring it on!

BONUS TRIVIA:  Look for an uncredited Don Cheadle, holding his own in a very funny sequence!

Video ****

We’ve come to expect nothing but the best from New Line on DVD, and the best is always what they deliver.  More than just another action/comedy, Rush Hour 2 has an incredible visual look to it, from the beautiful streets of Hong Kong to the night lights of Vegas.  Ratner and his cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti both have keen eyes for the visually dramatic, and this anamorphic transfer captures them flawlessly.  Colors are bright, vivid, and plentiful, and they play against each other with perfect contrast, with no bleeding or distortions.  Images are sharp and crisp down to the minutest detail, and lights and darks cooperate terrifically throughout, whether it’s bits of light reflecting on glass (notice the streetlife against Lee’s windshield in an early nighttime drive) or the gauche designs of a luxury casino.  This is a reference quality DVD that delivers.  One complaint:  the disc features one of the WORST layer switch placements I've ever seen.

Audio ****

Equally impressive is the Dolby Digital 5.1 track (DTS also included), which is good and loud, with plenty of dynamic range!  The action sequences call all corners of your sound system into play, with good balance and smooth crossovers throughout.  The .1 channel adds extra kick to the music and some of the more intense scenes.  Dialogue is always cleanly rendered, which definitely helps with Tucker’s fast talking and Jackie’s struggles with English.  A first rate knockout!

Features ****

New Line’s Infinifilm DVDs continue to raise the bar, and this is another top notch release.  The disc begins with a running commentary from director Ratner and screenwriter Jeff Nathanson, which is an informative and pleasant listen.  There are also two other ways to enjoy the feature with extras…use the Fast Track for extra bits of trivia and info printed across the bottom of the screen while you watch, or activate the Infinifilm to get pop up screens throughout that allow you to see extras like Jackie Chan’s stunt team in action, or deleted scenes, or Ratner directing, and so on.  (Note:  I don’t know if it was just MY disc or not, but the Infinifilm selection defaults to the wrong subtitle setting.  I had to manually change it from 1 to 3 with my remote…then, every time an Infinifilm selection returned me to the movies, the subtitles were back at 1 again, and I had to keep resetting them in order to use the feature!)

There are nine deleted scenes and an additional outtake reel (different from the one at the end of the film), with optional Ratner commentary.  There are several short featurettes that combine to make up a good overall behind-the-scenes look at the film:  “Jackie Chan’s Hong Kong Introduction” (kind of a tourist plug for his homeland), “Culture Clash” (a look at how basic filmmaking procedures differ in Hong Kong and America), plus “Language Barrier”, “Attaining International Stardom”, “Kung Fu Choreography”, “Making Magic Out of Mire” (a look at Ratner’s working style), “Evolution of a Scene”, “Fashion of Rush Hour 2”, and a multi-angle special effects deconstruction of the explosion at the Embassy scene, which goes by almost too fast to really use the four angles!

Rounding out the disc are two teasers and a full trailer, an early Brett Ratner student film Lady Luck, filmographies, and some DVD ROM extras, including links and a script-to-screen feature.  An excellent package!

Summary:

Rush Hour 2 is pure action/comedy fun, reuniting the winning team of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker for more international mayhem.  It’s as good, if not better than the original, so if you liked the first one, you definitely owe it to yourself to add this top notch Infinifilm DVD from New Line to your library.