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Review: CBS’ new ‘Rush Hour’ lacks the original’s stars and acrobatic wit but is still likable

Jon Foo, left, and Justin Hires, running alongside, star in the new CBS buddy-cop comedy "Rush Hour."
(Neil Jacobs / CBS)
Los Angeles Times Television Critic

“Rush Hour,” the Jackie Chan-Chris Tucker big-screen martial-arts action-comedy franchise, has now given birth to a noisy and likable TV series, premiering Thursday on CBS. And why not? In a world where “Fargo,” “Ash vs. Evil Dead,” “From Dusk Till Dawn,” “Damien” and “12 Monkeys” are converting film to television, surely there is room for this thing, which though it lacks the star power and acrobatic wit of its theatrical model, makes up for it in other ways.

The pilot generally follows the lines of the first “Rush Hour” movie, from 1998, in which Chan’s Hong Kong-based Det. Lee travels to Los Angeles and becomes provisionally partnered with Tucker’s Det. Carter — unhappily at first, as thus was it ever — on a case neither of them is meant to be actually working. That is an old trope too.

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Carter is played here by Justin Hires, a compact actor who resembles Tucker not at all; Lee by John Foo, a longtime martial arts performer who has worked with Chan and does look a little like him, but younger, leaner and dishier — Wendie Malick’s Capt. Cole, their traditionally exasperated superior, describes him as “an Asian Orlando Bloom.” Tucker, by contrast, is described by one character as “a hobbit with a gun.”

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The distinctions between their characters — the brash, chatty, rule-bending American detective and his by-the-book, deadpan serious Chinese counterpart — have been exaggerated here, drawn with heavy outlines, to make unmistakable the oddness of their coupling. This extends to getting Carter out of the sharp suits Tucker favored and into a T-shirt and jeans, and replacing his shiny vintage Corvette with a less well-kept old Chevy Super Sport.

“I’m the funny one, remember,” Carter tells Lee, to keep things clear.

“I have no use for fear — it is a distraction,” Lee tells Carter, so you will know that about him. Accordingly, his fight scenes lack the exacting slapstick of Chan’s; they are strictly about the kicking, the hitting, the spinning, the takedown.

Nevertheless, as developed by Bill Lawrence (who co-created “Spin City” and created “Scrubs”) and Blake McCormick (“Cougar Town”), with a pilot directed by Jon Turtletaub (“Cool Runnings,” “National Treasure”), it’s very much a comedy. And as a comedy with shooting and dying and an ongoing dark mystery, it seems made to order — and I suppose it is — for a network defined equally by old-fashioned sitcoms and eccentric crime shows.

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As schematic and sometimes silly as it can be — there is a lot of running between bullets, the procedural elements are not especially convincing — even on the basis of its pilot, the TV remake feels more complicated than its big-screen source. And what it lacks in big, expensive set pieces — this may be the Golden Age of television, but not necessarily in terms of budget — it gains in time spent on character-rounding talk. Excellent supporting work from Malick, Page Kennedy as Carter’s relatively benign criminal cousin (comical), and Aimee Garcia as his former partner (concerned), keep things cozy, familial and warm.

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‘Rush Hour’

Where: CBS

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When: 10 p.m. Thursday

Rating: TV-14-LV (may be unsuitable for children under the age of 14 with advisories for coarse language and violence)

robert.lloyd@latimes.com


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