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.