" I have heard of the arrogant male in capitalistic society. It is having a superior earning power that makes you that way. "
— Greta Garbo, Ninotchka

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Audiences went to see the first Rush Hour because Jackie Chan kicks ass and because Chris Tucker is hilarious. We didn’t particularly care about the specifics of the buddy-picture plot, we just wanted entertainment, and we were not disappointed.

The filmmakers saw that we liked it and decided to give us some more.

Plot, Schmlot

Chan and Tucker hang out on the set of Rush Hour 2Rush Hour ended with detectives Carter and Lee (Tucker and Chan, respectively) on a plane to Hong Kong, where Carter was going on vacation. Rush Hour 2 begins with the duo driving around Hong Kong, exchanging witty banter.

Their fun is cut short when Lee gets a phone call. A bomb has gone off in the American embassy and Lee is asked to investigate, starting with a Triad boss named Ricky Tan (John Lone). Carter insists on “helping” Lee in his own inimitable way.

Lee and Carter trail the bad guys from Hong Kong to L.A. to Las Vegas. Along the way they uncover a smuggling ring, a counterfeiting operation, and a money-laundering scheme. Somehow it all works out in the end, I think. I wasn’t really paying attention to the plot.

I went to Rush Hour 2 to see Jackie do some stunts and to see Tucker do his “Snake Dance.” I was not disappointed. In fact, I was downright entertained.

Jackie Chan

In Chan’s last film, Shanghai Noon, I was disappointed by edited and faked stunts. To be fair, I ought to be disappointed in Rush Hour 2 for the same reason. Jackie is getting older and he isn’t taking as many risks as he has 1) in the past and 2) in Hong Kong, away from the litigious and safety-conscious American film industry.

But in Rush Hour 2, Chan still gets to perform a few amazing maneuvers. In one scene he suspends himself in a narrow hallway using only his hands and feet. In another, he squeezes under an 8-inch slot, leaving his beefier American pursuers out of reach. These scenes, and others, are enough to make me smile in that awestruck way only Chan can make me do.

Chris Tucker

As for Tucker, he seems to have learned some moves from Jackie since the last film. In Rush Hour, Tucker was mostly an onlooker in Chan’s fights. In the sequel, he’s more involved, particularly in the fight in the Hong Kong brothel at the beginning. He seems to be learning from the master.

Unfortunately, part of what I loved about Tucker in the first film is lacking in the sequel. In Rush Hour, Tucker is made fun of behind his back. For example, he’s given the worst b.s. assignment imaginable, but because it’s done in such a way that his ego is stroked, he doesn’t even notice. When it dawns on him what has been done to him, he calls in to complain, and the chief invites the whole staff to listen in to the humiliating phone call.

It’s all okay — no harm is done — because Carter’s ego is big enough to make up for the humiliation. So the combination is a nice sweet-and-sour sauce of pride and humiliation. In Rush Hour 2 he loses the humiliation, leaving only the sweetness of a comically overinflated ego. It still tastes good, but it’s an easier, less subtle flavor that doesn’t seem quite as satisfying.

Rush Hour 4: The Cop Who Kicked Me

What makes Rush Hour 2 different from the first is that we have already seen it. It’s a known value, a favorite bedtime story. The first Rush was a novelty, an experiment gone right. But now we know what to expect and we’re already pre-sold on the concept.

That doesn’t change what we get out of it. We still go for Chan’s ass kicking and Tucker’s trash talking. But now it’s a franchise, like the James Bond movies. They could make ten Rush Hour movies and Chan, Tucker, and Ratner would die rich men. I would die a happy moviegoer.