The Rush Hour Of Jackie Chan
A hero is being hung down from a helicopter some 200 feet above. As the sun bets down, he swings about. Suddenly, a top needle of a skyscraper is pressing toward him. He fails to dodge and bumps heavily on the concrete needle.
This stimulating shot impressed in numerous Jackie Chan fans. Now it’s the “ rush hour” to be repaid for that devotion for him. As an Asia’s favorite action hero, he has finally conquered Hollywood. Rush Hour, Chan’s new made-in-America blockbuster, rocketed to the top of the charts on its opening weekend in the United States, winning an unexpected cross-over audience. In three days, the box-office tally was $33 million—the highest weekend gross ever for New Line Cinema. Now in its sixth week in American theatres, the film, directed by Brett Ratner, has so far taken in more than $117 million.
Chan had already scored when such films as Rumble in the Bronx and First Strike were released in mainstream theatres in the U. S., and not just in Chinatown and specialty video stores. Now Rush Hour has turned Jackie Chan into a household name the way Enter the Dragon made a legend of Bruce Lee.
The bi-racial pairing and good cop/bad cop storyline are predictably formulaic — Chan is Chinese and co-star Chris Tucker is black — similar to such films as the Lethal Weapon series starring Mel Gibson and Danny Glover. Yet the producers have wisely focused on the strengths of the two stars: Tucker’s hilarious, rapid-fire jive-talk, and Chan’s nimble derring-do in tight spaces and high places.
The film begins in Hong Kong on the eve of the hand-over as Han, a mainland Chinese diplomat, is dispatched to Los Angeles as consul general. A gangster promptly kidnaps Han’s darling daughter — and demands $50 million as ransom.
Though the vaunted Federal Bureau of Investigation gets called in. Han sends for his own man from Hong Kong, Lee(Chan), a Hong Kong detective with specialties to Han’s family. The FBI doesn’t like this one bit, and the stereotypical operation chief barks: “This is an FBI assignment, and I don’t need and help from the LAPD” —Los Angeles Police Department — “or some Chungking cop!”
When Lee arrives, LAPD Detective James Carter(Tucker) is assigned to keep him out of the real investigation. The dynamic duo inevitably team up, getting into one scrape after another. For example, they pursue one suspect through a building, nearly catching up with him until their collective weight sends them crashing through a rotting bridge.
Fortunately, much of the lame storyline is played for laughs. Tucker, an arrogant cop more interested in grabbing glory than in police teamwork, delivers his politically incorrect pronouncements on women, Asians, and anyone else, in a rambling, high-pitched voice. In one of the funniest scenes, Tucker takes Chan to mingle with other tourists in front of the famous Hollywood landmark, Mann’s Chinese Theatre — built as a fantasy interpretation of “Chinese” during the Art Deco period. He says: “Look familiar? Just like home, ain’t it” You might see one of your cousins walkin’ around here.”
At first, Chan seems to be a hapless patsy to Tucker’s bullying. Ultimately, he proves himself by making a getaway in the inimitable Jackie Chan way — deftly leaping from the top of a double-decker tour bus to a street sign suspended overhead, dropping onto a passing flat-bed truck, then into the motor-home of startled American vacationers, before somersaulting into a taxi.
The climax of the film comes when Chan is seen tip-toeing across five-storey-high beams inside the Los Angeles Convention Centre.
Long-time Jackie Chan fans may find his antics too familiar and the film’s slick editing relying more on camera tricks than real stunts. After all, Chan is almost 44 years old and Hollywood insurance codes prohibit actors from performing some of the outrageous stunts for which Hong Kong films are famous. Still, Chan has always been considered one of the most popular and respected stars in the Chinese film world. Given the typical typecasting of Asians as hookers or triads (witness Jet Li’s Western debut in Leathal Weapon 4), Jackie Chan’s relaunch as an action hero in the West is a resounding triumph.
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