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(2007) (Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker) (PG-13)

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Action/Adventure/Comedy: A Chinese inspector and an American cop travel to Paris to try to find a top-secret list of mafia crime lords.
It's been several years since Chinese Inspector Lee (JACKIE CHAN) and American cop Carter (CHRIS TUCKER) last worked together. While the latter has been demoted to a traffic cop, Lee is escorting Ambassador Han (TZI MA) to an important meeting of the World Criminal Court. Introduced by chairman Reynard (MAX VON SYDOW), Han is about to reveal the identity of Shy Shen, which could lead to the downfall of the notorious and powerful criminal Triads.

Before he can, however, an assassin, Kenji (HIROYUKI SANADA), shoots Han, prompting Lee to give chase. When the inspector discovers that the would-be assassin is his "brother" from their childhood orphanage, he can't shoot the villain who gets away. Now paired once again with Tucker, Lee learns from Han's adult daughter, Soo Yung (ZHANG JINGCHU), that the ambassador left information for the inspector.

Yet, the police officers learn that Triad goons already got it, all of which leads them to Paris. There, an anti-American cabbie, George (YVAN ATTAL), drives them around and complains about senseless American violence, all as they try to find showgirl Genevieve (NOEMIE LENOIR) who may have knowledge about Shy Shen. As they continue their quest, they must not only deal with Kenji and his goons, but also avoid the potentially lethal attacks by a Chinese assassin known as the Dragon Lady (YOUKI KUDOH).

OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
In the grand scheme of ironic misnomers, few are as blatantly incorrect as "rush hour." That is, at least in big metropolitan areas where there usually isn't much rushing (except doing so to get to the car, or on foot once one's arrived, late, at their destination), and an hour commute is a fantasy for those accustomed to much longer drive, bus, and/or rail times.

Accordingly, and despite its latest temporal description being off by some 30 minutes or so, the movies of the same name are more appropriate for their titles as they barely contain any slow moments. That holds true once again in "Rush Hour 3," the long delayed and much anticipated (at least by its fans and the releasing studio) second sequel to the original 1998 film.

While it's been a longer than expected six years since the 2001 sequel, the film picks up right where it left off with equal amounts of comedy and action. Although a fair amount of charm has worn off and both returning stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker look decidedly aged (the former in terms of the physical ability to pull off the obligatory stunts in a believable fashion, the latter in filling out more, as well as with his comedic stylings), their chemistry is still intact, if a bit rusty at times.

The result is a moderately entertaining offering where the laughs work a bit better than the stunts, although there's some fun to be had in them as well. The best combination of both occurs early in the film when the Chinese Inspector and American cop -- once again the odd couple pairing investigating some international wrongdoing -- stop at a martial arts school looking for a crucial clue.

Initially, they encounter some pint-sized students, and the scene seems destined to fulfill Tucker's proclamation of "I'm going to kick the puberty out of you." But then things take a turn for the bigger and decidedly taller when "Kung Fu Giant" comes out of the woodwork. Embodied (and then some) by basketball player Sun Ming Ming (necessitating three yard sticks to measure his 7'-9" frame), he towers over the diminutive Chan and even the taller Tucker.

The result is a goofy bit of homage back to when Bruce Lee battled Kareem Abdul Jabbar in the posthumously completed "Game of Death." Accompanied by a Chinese version of the old Abbott and Costello "Who's on First" bit (here, it doesn't go on as long, but gets some decent mileage out of the names "Yu" and "Mi"), the sequence sets the tone for the rest of the film.

Unfortunately, neither returning director Bret Ratner nor screenwriter Jeff Nathanson can keep up the pace or match the sheer fun of that early scene with what then follows. And that doesn't necessarily stem from the underlying story (about some mafia types wanting to keep a secret list of their names, well, secret), since the basic plots have never been the strong suit of these films.

Instead, it's always been about letting the stars do their thing, both individually and collectively. The former involves Chan and his signature stunts and acrobatics. While varying amounts of that are present, few if any of them deliver the "wow" quotient (due to age -- he is in his 50s now -- and/or the scribes not delivering on their end) as was once always the case with the agile and charismatic performer. There are some fun moments, but even the film's pièce de résistance, a battle along and on the Eiffel Tower's metal framework feels like a lesser version of spectacular work from the actor's past.

For Tucker, it's doing his signature sardonic and faux exasperated comedy. Yet, like his counterpart, much of that feels like reheated leftovers rather than fresh material, although there are laughs to be had here and there, even if some are fairly easy and/or too broadly played. And the been there, seen that reaction also applies to the two performers doing their annoyed but friendly shtick together. Some of it's amusing and fun, but it no longer exactly feels novel.

Hiroyuki Sanada appears as the obligatory villain, but despite him having a familial connection to Chan's character, he's never allowed to branch out from his one-dimensional trappings. Yvan Attal is present as another source of comedy (a French cabbie who decries American foreign policy and violent tendencies, only to succumb, in a manner of words, to the latter), while Max Von Sydow plays the classy European official (with a secret that's about as hard to miss as one of Chan's punches).

The ladies are represented by Zhang Jingchu as a character from the first film now grown up, Youki Kudoh as an assassin who's even more one-dimensional than her male villain counterpart, and Noemie Lenoir as a French showgirl who shows a lot of skin, but not much else.

While there are some fun and funny moments to be had, and it zips along at a fairly brisk pace, this is a decidedly slower and rustier installment of the popular East meets West action comedy than its predecessors ever were. "Rush Hour 3" rates as a 4 out of 10.

Reviewed August 6, 2007 / Posted August 10, 2007

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