My friend Patricia's laughter
Having just reviewed the well-crafted Bourne Ultimatum, I admit to being compromised in assessing the middling Rush Hour 3. Yes, I know, the former is a serious entry in the spy/action/thriller genre and the latter a buddy/cop, East/West fusion comedy, but I was not impressed with any of Rush Hour 3's qualities except the Black audience's enjoyment of Carter's (Chris Tucker) wisecracks and my friend Patricia's unalloyed love of the series punctuated by her infectious laughter at every comic turn. I would go to any comedy with her just to catch that vibe.
Lee (Jackie Chan) and LAPD cop Carter reunite after six years in LA to combat an international crime syndicate, Triad, led by Lee's brother Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada). Fortunately for us they spend time cruising the sewers and streets of Paris, either location being more interesting than, say, the infrastructure of my Columbus, Ohio.
The complication of brothers at odds is never capitalized on beyond some nose-to-nose sneering and predictable compromising to save a sibling, regardless of the side of the law he's on. Chan seems tired with the series, doing fewer of his signature imaginative stunts and deferring to Tucker's imitation Chris Rock hyper comedy.
Tucker's Lethal Weapon/Beverly Hills Cop borrowing wears on me while the Eiffel Tower shenanigans relieve me, who couldn't wait long enough to go up its elevator the last time I stopped by. Production designer Edward Verreaux ("Monster House," "Contact") gets the guts of the icon working just right for Chan's few acrobatics, and J. Michael Muro ("Open Range," "Crash") has the set feeling like a Hitchcock concoction figuratively supporting intricate international intrigue.
Because we are mainly in Paris, the showgirl sequences are Can-Can satisfactory, and Tucker is at times funny as the wide-eyed boy/man who can't believe his luck consorting with hot ladies (The French do get something right). But it's the caustic comments by George (Yvan Attal), the French cabbie, about wanting to be an American to experience such thrills as murdering people without reason (our Iraq syndrome preceding us). The anti-American comments, while mitigated by some sympathies, are a welcome shot in a genre that rarely tries to rise above its action to challenge our global heavy stick.
Rush Hour 3 is fun to watch, its jokes occasionally laser sharp in their aim. Roman Polanski's role as a creepy police inspector is particularly enjoyable for his obnoxious attitude and the subtext of the director's real-life exile. I just don't know whether Chan's hair could be dyed any blacker the next time around when coloring becomes too obvious or whether audiences will have tired of Tucker's out-sized comedy.
Matt Damon will outlast them both