Rush Hour Back in the days of "Beverly Hills Cop," it was hard to imagine that a comic would ever want, or need, to speak faster than… Rush Hour Back in the days of "Beverly Hills Cop," it was hard to imagine that a comic would ever want, or need, to speak faster than… 1998-09-18 PG-13 Action/Adventure Comedy Mystery and Thriller Jackie Chan Chris Tucker Ken Leung Tzi Ma Tom Wilkinson New Line Cinema
Movie Review

Rush Hour (1998)

MPAA Rating: PG-13
Jackie Chan, Rush Hour

HANGING IN THERE Chan shows off his skill with body language


Details Release Date: Sep 18, 1998; Rated: PG-13; Genres: Action/Adventure, Comedy, Mystery and Thriller; With: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker; Distributor: New Line Cinema

Back in the days of "Beverly Hills Cop," it was hard to imagine that a comic would ever want, or need, to speak faster than Eddie Murphy, the machine-gun-mouthed master of street braggadocio. Chris Tucker, the only performer worth watching in "Rush Hour," speaks much, much faster than Murphy. He's a verbal speed freak, spewing entire sentences--sometimes two at a time--in a single frenzied thought blast. Tucker likes to pitch his voice as high as a banshee wail, and he drops consonants as if he didn't have the time to enunciate them. He sounds as if he's channeling some funky Southern housewife/diva as she sasses her misbehaved son. If the hint of gender-bending mockery is sheer play, so is the gaze of pop-eyed fury that Tucker applies to just about every white person on screen.

With his angry hustler's put-on screech, Chris Tucker, at times, flirts with turning himself into a scamp minstrel show. Yet even that he does knowingly--satirically. Anarchic yet sleek, he's a razory jester who's in desperate need of being cast in a wild comedy, and not just some rubbishy generic "action comedy." His whole antic persona is based on his not giving a damn about the big picture--Tucker's sole focus, à la Groucho Marx, is on what's directly in front of him--and that attitude only reinforces the cruddiness of a vehicle like "Rush Hour." The film isn't worth giving a damn about either.

Tucker's bad-boy cop is paired with a Chinese superagent played by Jackie Chan, the Hong Kong action star who is now threatening to turn into a minstrel show of his own. The two characters team up in Los Angeles to locate the kidnapped 10-year-old daughter of a Chinese diplomat. Chan still doesn't speak very fluent English--his body tends to do the talking for him--and in Rush Hour, the communication barrier becomes a springboard for the film's only sustained concept, as the exasperated black cop tosses off "harmlessly" racist Asian jokes. (Tucker to Chinese thug: "I been lookin' for your sweet-and-sour chicken ass!") None of this would matter as much if Chan the martial-arts demon had been allowed to cut loose, but he gets only one great combat moment, in which he fights off a bunch of attackers while trying to prop up a priceless vase.

Like Tucker's last star vehicle, 1997's "Money Talks," "Rush Hour" represents the dregs of the buddy comedy. The two characters barely even have a relationship; they're a union of demographics--the "urban" market meets the slapstick-action market. Chan deserves better, but then, he's had better. Tucker is another story, a dervish of a comic who has practically been baptized in clichés, yet always brings a touch of original madness to them. He's so much faster than the movies he's in. He wouldn't be the first star to force Hollywood to play catch-up.

Originally posted Sep 18, 1998

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