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Movie Review: Rush Hour

Rush Hour
Directed by Brett Ratner
Written by Jim Kouf and Ross LaManna
New Line Cinema, 1998

One of the staples of the eighties was the buddy cop movie, highlighted by Lethal Weapon and 48 Hrs. The idea was to mismatch the partners as much as possible; one would be the straight arrow and the other would be certifiable. Also, the buddy cop movie also tried to mix white and black. So it was an interesting idea to pair longtime martial arts stunt master Jackie Chan with stand-up comedian Chris Tucker, who had scored some modest hits with Friday and Ratner’s Money Talks.

Chan himself had just broken out in America after tremendous success worldwide. Many of his pictures were finally arriving to the States and were decent hits. So, how would the two mismatched leads mesh? The combination went very well: getting a normally awful September release date, the movie went on to gross over $140 million.

In Rush Hour, a Chinese consul’s (Tzi Ma) daughter (Julia Hsu) is kidnapped in LA and the bad guys want a ransom, and the FBI is on the case. However, the consul wants to use his go-to cop from China, Inspector Lee (Chan). The FBI doesn’t want the out-of-towner messing things up, so they contact the LAPD to send them an unknowing schlub to deter Lee’s progress. That would be Detective James Carter (Tucker), who thinks he’s on a special FBI case but is actually being sandbagged by his own department, who thinks he’s a loose cannon.

Lee will not be deterred, however, and Carter shows his street smarts in finding out some information. But Lee is a bit slippery and there’s a bit of a language barrier, so the movie is also about how they learn to work together despite their differences, which can often be pretty funny and entertaining.

As a movie it’s pure popcorn and it’s worth a look. However, storywise it’s pretty lame, not that you’d notice really. The bad guys, both of whom would do a lot better to stay in the shadows, show up in places where they can easily be discovered. It’s a minor quibble, though, since the movie is just about comedy and action and it delivers it pretty well.

In 1998, Rush Hour went on to be the 7th highest grossing picture of the year. It still has the second highest September opening (once the best) after Sweet Home Alabama.

Next: Rush Hour 2

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