by Raffi (9/15/98)

I just got back from attending another sneak preview, this time for Jackie Chan's latest movie, Rush Hour. Pretty much its the cliched 'fish out of water' scenario all over again. Jackie is a super cop from China sent to solve a case with an American partner. Sound familiar? Sound like Super Cop? Sounds almost like that new TV show Martial Law? The difference between Rush Hour and Super Cop is that this time Jackie is the "fish out of water" and his partner isn't an equally competent partner from across the ocean, its a super-freak screwup LAPD officer played by Chris Tucker. This time the story revolves around the kidnapping of the Chinese Consul's daughter. Jackie is flown in to help out and the FBI tries to dump him off on the LAPD to keep him out of the way. Little do they know that Jackie and Chris Tucker are the only ones who got the skills to solve the case.

If you're looking for good martial arts, this movie won't disappoint you. As a matter of fact, if you are a loyal Jackie fan, this movie will definitely impress you, its a definite step up from his last few movies (Mr. Nice Guy, Thunderbolt, Who Am I, First Strike). The difference? Well its not more fighting, its better story! Since Jackie didn't break anything during the filming of this movie (a la Rumble in the Bronx or Mr. Nice Guy). There is no need to redo the end of the movie to cover up Jackie's injury... yes, there IS actually a physical confrontation between the Jackie and the bad guy, not just some large piece of machinery removing someone's pants (If you don't know what I'm talking about, you must have missed several of Jackie's last few pics).

Clearly Jackie is getting older, so don't expect the impossibly dangerous stunts of say an Operation Condor. But besides, this is an American movie, with labor laws and safety codes, so those types of things would be illegal anyway. One positive sign of Jackie's maturation is the fact that he finally has moved from that 70's hairdo to a more contemporary style. But there are sufficient amounts of Jackie's funny and inventive use of props, scenery and his body in fight scenes. The one that stands out in my mind is where he disarms several opponents at lightning speed with a steering wheel handcuffed to his wrist.

Jackie's character is pretty much the straight man in this partnership. Chris Tucker is another story. His character is, as best as I can describe, a complete clown. No one takes him seriously, he completely BSes the entire movie and talks about about a mile a minute. Can you say Will Smith from Men in Black and/or Eddie Murphy from Beverly Hills Cop? The difference between Tucker's role and those is that in movies like MIB, even though those guys are off the wall, unconventional cops, they get the job done, they are successful cops. Tucker is more of an Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther for most of the movie, convincing everyone he meets that he is a complete moron as he bungles into clues and leads.

One thing that I feel I must comment on, because of the fact that its something I look for in a lot of the movies I view is the presentation of Asians in American cinema. I was pretty critical of this summer's Lethal Weapon 4 for the excessive racist comments out of the main characters. Rush Hour is strikingly different in a somewhat positive way (at least with respect to Asians). The type of comments coming out of Chris Tucker's mouth are of the same brand as Mel Gibson's in LW4 (Assumption that Chinese people don't speak English, usage of Chinese food in slander, etc). But partly because of the type of character its coming from (completely phreak (Tucker) vs. all-American macho leading man (Gibson)) and also because these comments were part of the endless diatribe coming from Tucker throughout the movie (his character can most definitely be described as a motor-mouth) I came away from this movie with a much better feeling than I did LW4.

In addition, despite most of the villains in this movie being played by Asians, this movie provides positive Asian characters to contrast the negative ones (and the negative ones aren't as stereotypical for that matter). A few things that did bug me were the fact that the waitresses in the restaurant scene resembled "Suzy Wongs" and Chris Tucker's errant reference to getting hooked up with some Chinese women at a massage parlor in Hong Kong. These two comments bothered me because I feel that things like that only reinforce some of the negative stereotypes that exist in American minds about Chinese women (namely the "sexy, exotic Dragonlady" type characterization).

While I'm going off on stuff that bothers me personally, I really did not care for the references to marijuana made in the movie. This (like negative Asian stereotyping) is one thing that I really dislike. But like the other comments that I disliked, the marijuana stuff is just another drop in the bucket of words coming out of Chris Tucker's mouth, so you almost don't even notice.

One thing that bothers me about Tucker's character is somehow I feel that his being a freaky, smart mouthed unconventional cop is being connected with the fact that he's black. (perhaps is the ebonics and ghetto references?) I think I was looking for another black character who was "normal" to contrast with Tucker, but unfortunately none exist in this movie. I am just thinking about how much this movie will reinforce stereotypical images of Black Americans that exist in the minds of people in the US and around the world. (After all, Jackie is the biggest movie star in the WORLD!)

These issues aside, I would recommend Rush Hour to any fans of Jackie or Chris Tucker, they work well together. Some of the scenes are actually really hilarious and the fight scenes are pretty good. The 'fish out of water' might be a little cliched, but this movie is based on a solidly written script without TOO many unbelievable elements (ok, so yeah she was lucky to guess the right color on the bomb's wires, but thats no SOO unbelievable).

I definitely started liking this movie more towards the conclusion, it definitely ends on a high note. Hopefully Jackie's future movies will stay of this quality now that he's made a bonafide first rate American movie. Heck, I might even go out and rent a Chris Tucker film next time I go to the video store.