Review: Rush Hour 3

Mismatched cops Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker travel to Paris to stop a triad threat. Listless sequel marked by flat slapstick and senseless mayhem.

Back in 1998, the first Rush Hour established a simple formula: let Jackie Chan repeat some of his best stunts from his Hong Kong films, and give the jokes to Chris Tucker. The six-year gap between Rush Hour 2 and Rush Hour 3 has been attributed by some to salary negotiations between Tucker and New Line, which ended up paying the actor at least $20 million, depending on box-office receipts. That amount, for what is only Tucker’s seventh starring role, says a lot about the studio’s expectations for the franchise. Sadly, Rush Hour 3 is by far the worst film in the series, and marks career low points for just about everyone involved. Even the normally hardworking Chan seems detached from the proceedings.

Chan reprises his role as Inspector Lee, a bodyguard to Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) during a Los Angeles seminar about the triads. After an assassination attempt, Lee rejoins LAPD loser James Carter (Tucker) to find the shooter. The trail leads to Paris, where Carter befriends Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir), an exotic dancer with ties to the triads. Lee encounters Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada), a triad executioner, and Youki Kudoh (Jasmine), a madame who hides knives in her fan.

When not frequenting “gentlemen’s clubs,” Lee and Carter find themselves chased through the Paris sewers, harangued by a French cabbie (Yvan Attal), and tricked by Reynard (a slumming Max von Sydow), head of the World Criminal Court. Han’s daughter Soo Yung (the affecting Jingchu Zhang) becomes a hostage, leading to a climax atop the Eiffel Tower.

Tucker dominates the film, dancing, singing, and deploying his irritating whine at every opportunity. Is it funny that he can’t tell if Genevieve is male or female? Or when an unbilled Roman Polanski arrives to give him a rectal exam? Or when Tucker camps it up as “Bubbles,” a gay fashion designer? No matter how bad the material, the actor plays it full tilt. Chan, on the other hand, barely seems present, although he has a few nice moments with Zhang. Sanada makes an appropriate villain, and Philip Baker Hall, also disdaining a credit, drops by for a single scene.

Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson comes up with one genuinely amusing bit: Carter trying to interrogate kung fu instructors named “Yu” and “Mi” in what turns out to be a pretty good approximation of an Abbott and Costello routine. Chan and his stunt team concoct a short but intricate fight with Kudoh that is a pure delight. (Outtakes over the closing credits show some of the effort and pain that went into the sequence.) Otherwise Rush Hour 3 is a vulgar, noisy stew of recycled gags, pointless chases, and leaden dialogue. The most appalling aspect of the project may be the contempt the filmmakers show towards their audience.

Cast: Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Hiroyuki Sanada, Youki Kudoh, Yvan Attal, Noemie Lenoir, Zhang Jingchu, Tzi Ma, Dana Ivey, Henry O., Max von Sydow, Sun Ming Ming.

Credits: Directed by Brett Ratner. Written by Jeff Nathanson. Based on characters created by Ross LaManna. Produced by Arthur Sarkissian, Roger Birnbaum, Jay Stern, Jonathan Glickman, Andrew Z. Davis. Executive producer: Toby Emmerich. Director of photography: J. Michael Muro. Production designer: Edward Verreaux. Editors: Don Zimmerman, Dean Zimmerman, Mark Helfrich. Costume designer: Betsy Heimann. Music by Lalo Schifrin. Visual effects designed and supervised by John Bruno. Stunt coordinators: Conrad E. Palmisano, Eddie Braun, Bradley James Allan. Co-producers: James M. Freitag, Leon Dudevoir. A New Line Cinema presentation of an Arthur Sarkissian and Roger Birnbaum production, in association with Unlike Film Productions.

New Line/Color/2.35/Dolby Digital, DTS & SDDS/90 mins./Rated PG-13

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