**/**** Image A+ Sound A- Extras A-
starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Zhang Ziyi
screenplay by Jeff Nathanson
directed by Brett Ratner
by Walter Chaw For as long as Jackie Chan has been the logical heir to Buster Keaton's crown, it becomes apparent during the course of Brett Ratner's Rush Hour 2 that he may also be the heir to Peter Sellers's Inspector Clouseau/Pink Panther crown. Blithely mixing the broad racial humour with the broad slapstick theatrics that typify Sellers and Blake Edwards's classic comedies of criminal bad taste, Rush Hour 2 even makes time for a couple of bombshell secret agents, a brief and largely inexplicable interlude involving breasts rendering a man amusingly mute, and a cheerfully inept sidekick who gets in the stray kick now and again. The tenor, then, is dedicatedly light, and the humour is predictably free of cleverness--mostly involving Asians eating dogs and killing chickens, and African-Americans preferring their chickens fried and their karaoke with a heaping helping of Jacko gesticulations. That Rush Hour 2 (and the Pink Panther saga, for that matter) is often so genial in its cheap humour and gratifying in its physical exertions speaks to an almost universal desire to see people get a pie in the face while inelegantly breaking societal taboos. Rush Hour 2 never once aspires to anything other than formula fluff and never once descends into the dangerous realm of superlative entertainment. It is the prototypical summer film: loud, cheap, exploitive, and forgotten almost as soon as it's over.
Detective Inspector Lee (Chan), after making a friend of wacky Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) in the first film, is hosting this fish-out-of-water chum in his native Hong Kong when Triads bomb the U.S. Consulate. Led by the evil Ricky Tan (John Lone) and his lead henchperson Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), the Chinese gang seems to be involved in some sort of counterfeiting operation that provides for our intrepid pair an excuse, later on, to return to the United States and Las Vegas, the unofficial locale for Summer Idiocy. Into the mix comes an evil capitalist (the inexcusably-named Steven Reign (Alan King)), a stacked Latina secret service agent (Roselyn Sanchez), and Don Cheadle in a bizarre cameo that cozily recalls a few Pam Grier blaxploitation films.
The almost unnecessary plot isn't much of a hindrance to the film (its short-shrifting goes almost entirely unnoticed), which is, after all, just a series of high-decibel Chris Tucker improvisations alternating with a series of truncated Jackie Chan action moments. It is a shame that Tucker's interminable and occasionally ugly patter diverts so much attention from Chan's remarkable acrobatic ability, slowed now in his fourth decade of performing but still able to dazzle. The most gifted physical comedian in the history of the cinema deserves a good deal more than to be shackled by American pockets and sensibilities to a vexing fast-talking clown in the Jim Carrey mold with a similarly limited cinematic lifespan.
Ratner's feather-light directorial style seems to understand that to treat a single element of Rush Hour 2 with any kind of sober gravity would be a grievous mistake, and he plays to each of his leads' strengths: Tucker's peculiar talent to grate with jovial racial insensitivity and Chan's astonishing physical grace. Rush Hour 2 lives and dies by the very specific appeal of each performer's carefully-crafted shtick; it is thus a great pity that Tucker is only funny accidentally while occupying the bulk of screentime, and that Jackie Chan is only allowed to offer staccato bursts of manic genius that serve more to illuminate just how badly Rush Hour 2 needed to put a muzzle on Tucker and let Chan loose. It says a lot about a film that its outtakes, shown over the closing credits, are considerably tighter and more entertaining than the film that preceded it (see also: A Bug's Life)--and it says a lot about the brain trust behind Rush Hour 2 that even after the success of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Asians are still the butt of slack karaoke cracks and laboured penis-size jokes. Originally published: August 3, 2001.
by Bill Chambers While Rush Hour 2 is the latest title in New Line's sensational "infinifilm" line of DVDs, its extras don't soar to the heights of their "Platinum Series" Rush Hour disc, which contains among other things a fly-on-the-wall segment showing Jackie Chan's choreography of a scene that is unparalleled in its candour. The infinifilm Rush Hour 2's greatest strength is a 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that approximates the natural, chemical quality of celluloid like few others I've seen. (Its occasional underexposure seems to be inherent in the work of cinematographer Matthew F. Leonetti.) The Dolby Digital 5.1-EX and DTS 6.1-ES tracks are a good match for the high-quality video presentation, though the latter is quite a bit more thunderous than the former and has an all-around broader soundscape. Note that I did not listen to these mixes either EX- or ES-enabled; I am still using a 5.1 speaker configuration.
Brett Ratner is a little easier to take than usual in his screen-specific commentary with screenwriter (well, scenarist) Jeff Nathanson, but he's impossible in the included "Making Magic Out of Mire" (9 mins.), where he discusses "what makes a Brett Ratner film" and gets compared to Michelangelo (!) by stunt co-ordinator Conrad Palmisano. The only highlight is watching Chris Tucker try to improv his way out of saying the word "bitch." This featurette is part of a section called All Access Pass that also umbrellas three 'scene evolutions' from prep to shoot, a trio of superb making-ofs closer in spirit to the aforementioned extra on the first Rush Hour than anything else on this disc. The 4-minute "The Fashion of Rush Hour 2" is funny for the presence of Jeremy Piven, selecting his wardrobe and finding his feminine side, but the multi-angle visual effects deconstruction (of the American Embassy explosion) has been done better elsewhere. Nine deleted scenes (which are more fun to watch during the film itself upon the "infinifilm" menu cuing one up) with optional commentary from Ratner, five minutes of outtakes, cast and crew biographies, and one standard and two teaser trailers close out the All Access Pass.
The DVD's Beyond the Movie supplements, a regular "infinifilm" feature, begin at what is essentially a Hong Kong tourism promo narrated by Jackie Chan. Moving on, you'll find: "Culture Clash: West Meets East" (5 mins.), a glimpse into Jackie's trademark disdain towards the Hollywood tendency to overspend; "Language Barrier" (4 mins.), exploring the trials and tribulations of assembling an international crew; "Attaining International Stardom" (7 mins.), a piece examining Chan and Tucker's post-Rush Hour careers outside their respective homelands; "Kung Fu Choreography" (9 mins.), a great tribute to Jackie's mastery of the craft (although Ratner's assertion that Rush Hour "made martial arts cool" is boneheaded in more ways than one can begin to address); and finally, Lady Luck, a 3-minute film from Ratner's NYU days (commentary from him attached) starring Rebecca Gayheart. (It's shorter and less painful than the Ratner student opus on the Rush Hour disc.)
As per the infinifilm way, the abovementioned bonus material is available for viewing on its own or in bite-size portions via blue interactive pop-ups during Rush Hour 2. Don't think I've forgotten to mention the de rigeuer "fact track," either, a text-based barrage of information and insight that marginally improves the film while operational. The only things you'll never run across--without a DVD-ROM drive, that is--are links to New Line's online store and Rush Hour 2's website, plus a script-to-screen function. Aside: Kudos to New Line Home Video for enhancing the DVD whole to fill out 16x9 displays. Originally published: November 19, 2001.