Rush Hour
Director: Kevin Donovan

Director: Stanley Tong

Director: Brett Ratner

Director: Tom Dey

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

The thing about Jackie Chan movies has always been this: No matter how laughable the story, the stunts you see Jackie doing he is really doing. He was always impressive even if the film starring him was otherwise goofy & lame.

The TuxedoBut since going Hollywood he could no longer calling his own shots. Or perhaps he just reached an age where he had to admit he hasn't got the action moves in him any more.

The Tuxedo is an FX-driven fight movie with wire stunts & computer tinkering to make Jackie's martial moves function. Yet the story is still the same old slapstick nonsense.

So the goofy lame element of far too many Jackie Chan movies is preserved, but his ability to be awesome even in the middle of a failed joke has been removed.

The comedy premise is that the tuxedo is a super-spy gizmo programmed to make its wearer a martial artist. It is accidentally put on by Jackie Chan's character who wouldn't otherwise know how to fight. Some scenes, like when he's only wearing the tuxedo slacks & only the bottom part of his body can fight, does give Jackie every opportunity for physical comedy.

The tuxedo is also programmed to force its wearer to be 007 suave, even against the will of its wearer, & Jackie's comic timing for such antics is perfect to the task.

A lot of comedy is gotten from this premise, all lowbrow but some of it effective even so. But the story of the super-villain about to unleash insect doom on the world makes the Spy Kids movies look grown-up. And the fact that Jackie's fighting skills are being tricked out & faked with special FX makes him about one-tenth as impressive as usual.

After Hong Kong was taken over by comminist China, Jackie Chan shifted his film career to just such English language films, & truly succeeded at the transition, becoming a boxoffice hit in regular ol' American cineplexes.

Rumble in the BronxHis first leap into mainstream American filmmaking was Rumble in the Bronx (1995). The funniest bits of comedy in this turkey are unintentional. Having just fled Hong Kong for Canada, he brought as much of his crew with him as were wiling to resettle in Canada.

To these folks North American cities must all look alike, for they thought nothing of having Vancouver, B.C., double for the Bronx, New York, right down to funny car chases down the green-margined freeway.

The film couldn't be made in the United States where insurance is not available for actors who do their own stunts & no producer would finance it. Since doing his own stunts had always been Jackie's number one promotional angle -- if it looks like he's doing it, he's doing it -- he had to stay in Canada.

And so right away he broke his foot pretty badly, in a sequence that required him to jump across an alley onto a fire escape railing. That stunt could've killed him even way back when he was young enough to pull it off. No further takes were possible, so when you see this leap in the film, you're seeing Jackie break his foot & pretending he didn't. Tough old geezer.

For the rest of the shoot he had a cast on his foot, "painted" to look like a tennis shoe, trying not to be seen limping, sitting in a wheelchair between takes. There were consquently a lot fewer stunts than originally planned. There are just two good action scenes for Jackie. That moronic air-car hovercraft chase took the place of a fuller menu of physical comedy & fight action.

Ridiculous though the film was, Jackie is nevertheless as charming as ever. Rumble in the Bronx did good box office in America. Like a lot of crappy films, an aggressive ad campaign made it profitable for one weekend, when it was the number one film in America. But interest didn't last through a second weekend, after enough people had seen it for the "news" to get around that it stank.

It did even better in Asia where everyone was eager to find out how Jackie's transition to being an American actor (or least a Canadian actor) was working out.

Increasingly Jackie would involve North American filmmakers in his projects so that their appeal to non-Chinese American & Canadian viewers would strengthen. In terms of profitability Rumble in the Bronx was an auspicious beginning to Jackie's North American movie career.

But in terms of quality, it was no worse than nine-tenths of the junk he'd been churning out for years, but it wasn't any good either. And for continued American success, even in the commercial junk category, he'd have to get better.

Primarily a physical commedian, Jackie's company decided that the sorts of co-stars he needed were comedians. These were assumed to bring in more of the American audience than just the ones who already knew Jackie from Hong Kong movies.

Rush HourWhether it's because Jackie hated to be upstaged by someone funnier than he is, or because he can't tell who is authentically funny & who is mainly just annoying, Jackie's co-stars have tended to be mediocre choices. Chris Tucker is his partner in crimefighting in Rush Hour (1998).

Tucker is loud without being witty, though a great part of the reason for that is the idiot script. He's given a lot of dialogue perhaps so Jackie didn't have to talk too much with his exceedingly heavy accent. Two-thirds of his chatty nonsense should've been deleted, though I suppose if that'd happened the one-third that worked would've been the first bits edited out.

To be fair, if you can get past the mere loudness of Chris Tucker's performance, he & Jackie do make a pretty good comedy team, & not big surprise that there'd team up later for sequels.

So if you do happen to be a Chris Tucker fan first & foremost, Rush Hour really is more his film than Jackie's, & that should please whoever didn't care to see too much of Jackie. But it's hard for me to imagine who'd rather see Tucker, & for me, his flapping around for the lion's share of attention renders the film crapulistic-expidotious.

I mean, Jackie is a comedic martial artist of great skill. Chris provides "comic relief" from the comedy, without being capable or interesting at faking it.

The plot such as it is regards a Hong Kong cop (Jackie) sent to Los Angeles to help recover the kidnapped daughter of a Chinese politician. He's paired with blabbermouth L.A. cop (Chris) who has been instructed to keep Lee out of the way. But detective Carter doesn't like to be told what to do so assists Lee in doing the actual job.

The premise goes no further than that really. It's just the laundry-line on which kung fu action scenes are hung, Tucker's jabbering filling up the time between stunts.

Shanghai Noon Continuing Jackie Chan's preference for annoying sidekicks, in the punning Shanghai Noon (2000; also distirubted as Shanghai Kid), he teams up in the Old West with Owen Wilson, to save the Chinese princess (Lucy Liu). The name of the princess is Pei Pei, surely in homage to the greatest swordswoman actress of Hong Kong, Cheng Pei Pei.

Wilson & Chan do get some chemistry going like a real comedy team, but that doesn't lesson the fact that Wilson is naturally annoying & this role enhances his annoyingness.

Even so, Owen can at least act, as Chris Tucker couldn't. So whenever Owen does a doubletake on one of Jackie's stunts, it's legitimately well-timed & funny.

And where Tucker was antic in a competition with Jackie to make the film his own, Owen understands that a film works best if each actor is really interacting with the others for mutual success. He commands his scenes of annoyance without distracting from Jackie's more natural humor, providing an honestly supportive role.

At the same time Jackie, always the consumate professional, does the same for Owen, making him look as good as is possible, as Jackie has done for many actors over the years, having no insecurities about his own screen impact.

And when his character of Roy is downcast to realize even his Chinese buddy finds him annoying & doesn't want him hanging around him any more, it's funny but at the same time sad for Roy.

Shanghai NoonBecause of Owen's ability to make Annoying Sidekick Man credible in addition to annoying, he's the best of the co-stars with whom Jackie has been saddled. That our Imperial Guard hooks up with a bumbling train robber rather than with a naturally heroic type makes for amusing conflicts.

The possibilities of a kung fu hero in the old west have not been too badly mined in the cinema, David Carradine's television series notwithstanding. Shanghai Noon does rely on ahistorical & unbelievable movie cliches within the most superficial of plots (a plot, indeed, which was done almost identically in an old episode of Kung Fu), a lot of it nevertheless seems freshened by the Chinese point of view Jackie's character brings to the mileau.

Jackie's fight routines are amusing & mindboggling just to realize he's not assisted by CGI or finking out with stunt doubles. He really risks life & limb to amuse his fans.

Anyone wanting a good western will be disappointed, but whoever wants a comical kung fu film in western drag will delight in Jackie Chan's performance, & probably find Owen Wilson's performance tolerable. And as with most Jackie Chan films, it does light up every time he goes into action mode.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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