1 star (out of four)
The cop-buddy sequel is a cinematic tradition milked more times than Old McDonald's cow, and "Rush Hour 3" finds director Brett Ratner at the udder. I suppose it's the chic thing in Hollywood these days to resuscitate the franchises of yesteryear: "Live Free or Die Hard," "Rocky Balboa" and the upcoming "John Rambo" and the fourth "Indiana Jones" outing. But "Rush Hour 3" is DOA.
The plot involves the still unlikely partnership of LAPD Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) and Chinese Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan). Lee finds his employer, Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma), a criminal target as he threatens to expose the evil Chinese Triad, the most powerful crime syndicate in the world. If this smells like the original "Rush Hour," that's because it's practically the same movie, right down to the kidnapping of the ambassador's daughter, Soo Yung (Jingchu Zhang). Lee and Carter follow the trail of Soo Yung to Paris, where they stumble upon the secret list of the Triad and expose the true leader of the organization as someone close to the ambassador.
Instead of introducing a new protagonist (e.g. Chris Rock in "Lethal Weapon IV") or a fresh plot to reconnect with the audience, "Rush Hour 3" bludgeons us with the same old shtick. We laughed when Tucker did his first Michael Jackson impersonation in "Rush Hour"; now we yawn. The same holds true for the "punchy" dialogue and physical acting. Chan spitting jive and Tucker mocking judo moves are funny for only so long. Even the Chan stunts have become as old as Chan himself. The first action sequence depicts Chan crossing a busy street. Young Jackie would have danced across the roofs of passing cars; Old Jackie stops for traffic. The only notable newcomer is a French cab driver played by Yvan Attal, who spends his force-fed screen time mocking French attitudes on American violence. His over-the-top symbolism only lacks a retread "Dirty Harry" line to cap off the whole mess.
Tucker delivers his lines as if they were written to appear ad-libbed. While a poor script by Jeff Nathanson shoulders most of the blame, Tucker seems to have lost "it"; the door has apparently shut on his funny window. His punch lines don't deliver like they did in "Friday" or "The Fifth Element." In fact, Tucker's $25 million paycheck seems like an awful expensive postage stamp for this mailed-in performance.
'Rush Hour 3'
Directed by Brett Ratner; screenplay by Jeff Nathanson with characters by Ross LaManna; photographed by J. Michael Muro; edited by Mark Helfrich and Don Zimmerman; music by Lalo Schifrin; production design by Edward Verreaux; produced by Roger Birnbaum, Andrew Z. Davis, James M. Freitag, Jonathon Glickman, Arthur Sarkissian. A New Line Cinema release; opens Friday. Running time: 1:30. MPAA rating: PG-13 (for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language).
Inspector Lee - Jackie Chan
Det. James Carter - Chris Tucker
Kenji - Hiroyuki Sanada
Soo Yung - Jingchu Zhang
Varden Reynard - Max von Sydow
George - Yvan Attal