Stars: * 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for language, mild violence
Run Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Someone turn off the sequel-happy machine. This inane follow-up to 1998’s unlikely box-office smash “Rush Hour” is a racist, contrived attempt at raking in as many dumb-from-the-sun moviegoer dollars as humanly possible.
Racism is my second least favorite brand of humor, one tasteless step behind bathroom jokes. Jackie Chan’s handlers should take note that saddling him with rampant anti-Asian comedy is a definitive turn-off for die-hard fans, of which I am one. Chan reprises his roll as Detective Inspector Lee, and Chris Tucker his unlikely cop-in-arms, Detective James Carter of the LAPD. The film’s opening finds the brothers in Hong Kong, where Carter has landed for a private tour and some much needed R&R (read: parties and ladies). Unfortunately for Carter, Lee is hot on the trail of a serial bomber, whose identity is suspiciously linked to Ricky Tan, the ex-cop who allegedly killed Lee’s father. Add to the hunt for Tan a vicious Triad War, oft-mentioned (to snare the 18-25 male demographic) but never played out. Hot on the trail of Tan, the pair find themselves in Vegas (huh?), where a comely US government agent may or may not be involved in a shady money-laundering scheme. (Huh, huh, huh?)
“Rush Hour” was nothing to write home about, but it’s all about the bucks. If one “Rush Hour” can haul in tens of millions of dollars, can’t two double the fun and the volume of the studio coffers? Chan and Tucker’s relationship is an unfortunate chemistry based on racial insults, taunting Asians and African Americans in a peculiarly mean-spirited manner. “I’ll bitch slap you back to Bangkok” is not my idea of intelligent scripting, nor does it tickle my funny bone.
Chan is a professional through and through, and resolutely lends his good-natured spirit to the project. But his moves and his line delivery are perpetually a beat off, and his trademark charm is uncomfortably forced. Tucker tries to do Chris Rock (again), and fails (again). Zhang Ziyi, so glorious in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” and “The Road Home” is utterly wasted as the vicious kick-butt villainess with the face of an angel. Don Cheadle and Saul Rubinek appear in small, uncredited roles, enforcing the notion that no actor worth his salt is beneath slumming for dollars. Jeremy Piven’s quick turn as a fey Versace salesman elicited a couple of chuckles from me, but only a couple of laughs from a full-length comedy spells doom. Outtakes exhibit a warmth and wit completely lacking in the film, ending the experience on a falsely high note.