Brett Ratner is a director with a reputation. Sadly for him, it’s not a particularly good reputation. He is thought of as someone who makes his living producing sub-standard films and seems to have no eye for detail, character or storyline. In regard to his filmography, this criticism seems a little misguided. Sure he nearly killed a franchise with the atrocious X-Men: Last Stand and made the horribly insipid The Family Man. But his more recent offerings like Tower Heist have proven quite entertaining.
Perhaps the reputation has something to do with his breakout film. If he’d never made Rush Hour, perhaps people wouldn’t have expected so much from him and then slated him when he failed to live up to the success that he achieved first time out.
Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) is a Honk Kong detective who is sent to the US to investigate the kidnapping of the Chinese consul by the mysterious Juntao. Upon arrival, he is assigned a local police officer called Carter (Chris Tucker). He is aLos Angeles police officer with a bad attitude and a penchant for blowing things up, causing the city millions of dollars in damages. With Carter talking his way into trouble, and Lee fighting his way out, the two men overcome their differences to find the missing child and reveal who is behind the kidnapping.
On paper, Rush Hour should never have worked. The relentlessly annoying Chris Tucker teamed with the almost impossible to understand Chan in an action film directed by a veritable unknown. Everything screamed ˜straight-to-DVD’ and yet somehow Rush Hour is more than the sum of its parts. Firstly the cast, not only are the lead duo funny, engaging and thoroughly entertaining in their own right, they have a scintillating chemistry. So good are Inspector Lee and Officer Carter that you’d swear they’d been in lots of films together already. A supporting cast including Tom Wilkinson and Ken Leung are wasted, but the new director was clearly willing to take some risks with storyline (by removing it) and character (having one half unbearable for half the film) while delivering big on the action, thanks in no small part to Jackie Chan’s manic martial arts.
It’s just such a shame that it takes almost half of Rush Hour to lead you to this point. At first, Tucker is abrasive and as irritating as ever, constantly voicing his disapproval of being placed on a ˜babysitting’ assignment, luckily Rush Hour’s ace-in-the-hole Chan is so likeable as the wide-eyed foreigner in a new land, it’s forgivable to have them at each others throats. Once they agree to work together however, everything changes. Ratner reduces Tucker’s dialogue and increases Chan’s martial arts to a frenetic, almost insane levels helping the final act redeem any distaste left from the opening portion.
To sum it up Rush Hour is The Maltese Falcon as if directed by Michael Bay. The story stays true to its ˜Pulp fiction’ roots, with twists, turns, murder and intrigue. It’s basically all nonsense, but Ratner does a good job moving things along with some startling visuals and memorable fight scenes in the latter stages. Chan and Tucker hold up their end of the relationship, while Wilkinson and Leung are on hand for the ˜acting.’