Rush Hour 2
As the hardest-working entertainer in the world, Jackie Chan has shown a near-masochistic zeal to top himself with every outing, and his fervor has produced one of those rare action franchises in which the sequels are more inspired and elaborate than the originals. In Drunken Master II (a.k.a. The Legend Of Drunken Master), Chan and his partner take on 100 ax-wielding assassins at the same time. In Police Story 3 (a.k.a. Supercop), Michelle Yeoh jumps her motorcycle onto a moving train while Chan dangles around the city on a helicopter rope ladder. Armour Of God II (a.k.a. Operation Condor) climaxes with a Keaton-esque fight scene in a wind tunnel. So the pressing question with Rush Hour 2, the follow-up to the modestly entertaining buddy action-comedy starring Chan and Chris Tucker, was whether it would continue the tradition of Chan's Hong Kong sequels, or yield to Hollywood's law of diminishing returns. Sadly, the contest isn't even close. Now in his mid-40s, Chan can no longer pull off the outrageous, death-defying stunts of his youth, and even if he could, he'd have trouble rising above the din of Tucker's shrill comic stylings. The first Rush Hour opened with Tucker, a renegade L.A. cop, protesting against having a partner. In Rush Hour 2, he seems more determined than ever not to have one, except as a sounding board for his runaway egotism and crass observational humor. Picking up where their story left off, Chan and Tucker fly to Hong Kong for a vacation, but stumble upon an international counterfeit ring masterminded by triad leader John Lone and his American associate, a billionaire hotel owner played by Alan King. When a bomb explodes at the American Embassy, killing two U.S. customs agents, the ethnically mismatched heroes go undercover to find the source of $100 "superbills," meeting resistance from a sinister henchwoman (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon's Zhang Ziyi) and a possible double agent (Roselyn Sanchez). After some dire fish-out-of-water antics in Hong Kong, where Tucker muses about the interchangeable little people who eat dog and flee from Godzilla, Rush Hour 2 settles into a serviceable rehash of the original formula. Under the leadership of mercenary hack Brett Ratner, the spirit of paycheck-cashing infects nearly every aspect of the production, including Chan, whose fight choreography is less inventive than usual. The chemistry between the two stars is still apparent, especially in the hilarious closing-credit outtakes, but Chan deserves a partner who's less predictable and more democratic. Fortunately, a sequel to Shanghai Noon, co-starring the generous, self-deprecating Owen Wilson, is in the works.