I have a theory that every show on television is cop show. Even the shows that are not cop shows are cop shows. Shows. This commentary is equal parts in reference to the formulaic nature of pretty much everything you see, and my annoyance with the rest. With streaming services these days, it is even harder to find something unique. I give you these thoughts in order to set up today’s film, Rush Hour (1998). If you remember it, or have seen it recently on Netflix, you will recall that in execution, there is nothing too different about it. Name a buddy cop movie or program, and you get the gist of what happens in our film. Hence, my theory is that they decided to combine two of the more recognizable people in cinema, but coming from opposite ends of the Earth, literally and figuratively. I am, of course, referring to Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan. My favorite Tucker role is Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element (1997), but for non-nerds he is probably more well known as Smokey in Friday (1995). I have never seen that one. As for Jackie Chan, his accomplishments as an action star were already legendary by the time he did Rush Hour. This would be his true entrance into American cinema. Their pairing made for a successful film, the start of a trilogy, and flick that was funny in the 1990s. These days, it is yet another cop show with not a lot of laughs.
Rush Hour starts with Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) infiltrating a boat owned by infamous Hong Kong crime boss Juntao in that city’s port. Soon, he comes face-to-face with Sang (Ken Leung), who he assumes is Juntao. In the ensuing fracas, Sang gets away, but the arrival of the Hong Kong police force is able to take down Juntao’s operation. Inspector Lee delivers this news to his boss and friend, Consul Solon Han (Tzi Ma), who is being feted by British diplomat Thomas Griffin (Tom Wilkinson). The reason for the soiree is to give Consul Han a proper send off as he is being sent to be an ambassador to the United States. The joy of the evening is increased when Inspector Lee brings news of what has happened at the docks. It had been a long-time goal of Consul Han’s to see an end to Juntao. The person who is not happy with this upcoming move is Soo-Yung Han (Julia Hsu), Consul Han’s young daughter and mentee of Inspector Lee. Inspector Lee assures the girl that America is perfectly safe. We then cut to Los Angeles and Detective James Carter (Christ Tucker) working under cover for the police department and trying to purchase a bomb from a criminal. His plan is derailed when two uniformed cops notice these shady activities, leading to them being shot and the bomb being detonated in the middle of a city block. The next day at the precinct, Detective Carter is playing up the fact that he had arrest the criminal despite the damage done. At the same time across town, on her first day on the way to school, Soo-Yung is kidnapped by Sang and a group of his thugs. While the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) steps in to try and retrieve Soo-Yung, Consul Han decides he wants his own man that he can trust. Thus, he sends for Detective Lee. Agents Russ (Mark Rolston) and Whitney (Rex Linn) are not keen on a foreign meddler. To keep Inspector Lee busy and out of their way, they turn to Captain Bill Diel (Philip Baker Hall) to provide a police officer to deal with the potential interloper. Because Detective Carter has a reputation as a loud mouth, he is the one chosen to stay with Inspector Lee. When they meet at the airport, Inspector Lee plays Detective Carter, making the American policeman believe that he cannot speak English. Inspector Lee believes Detective Carter is wasting his time. However, Detective Carter is eager to get to the bottom of this case as a way of impressing the FBI and possibly getting a job with them. Inspector Lee does not make Detective Carter’s assignment easy, trying to escape at every turn and begin his own investigation. Eventually, Inspector Lee succeeds in getting away, heading to the Chinese embassy, but having to sneak in to see Consul Han. Detective Carter manages to catch up, and once again they are sent away. With Detective Carter’s contacts, they are able to learn of the location of Juntao’s operation, which is a restaurant in Chinatown. Unfortunately, this is where Consul Han through the FBI had been told to make the drop of the ransom money to back Soo-Yung. We also learn that Thomas Griffin is actually Juntao, and he promptly leaves before Detective Carter and Inspector Lee could begin their damages in earnest. Thomas goes to his so-called old friend in Consul Han and advices the diplomat to pay the increased demands. At the same time, our disgraced heroes manage to rebound. With some help from Detective Carter’s friend on the bomb squad, Detective Tania Johnson (Elizabeth Peña), they are able to find the next location for the exchange: an exposition of the Chinese art previously stolen by Juntao. With the usual lack of thinking, the two protagonists make it in time. Detectives Carter and Johnson are also able to get the explosive vest off Soo-Young, while Inspector Lee chases a money-laden Juntao. Juntao eventually falls to his death. Inspector Lee almost suffers a similar fate, but is saved at the last moment by Detective Carter. We finish with them about to take a trip to Hong Kong, with Detective Carter turning down a job offer from the FBI on the way onto the plane.
A movie like Rush Hour presents challenges for the Catholic reviewer. It relies heavily on stereotypes for its humor, and that is problematic. At the same time, if you take the film seriously, it does not work. For lack of a better angle, then, I shall stick with stereotypes. They are so prevalent in our society precisely because they are oversimplifications of supposed truths. The bigger the stereotype, the less likely it is to be true. Yet they prevail because, sadly, most people do not want to think. Because we are also taught to be more social butterflies than reserved, this puts pressure on people as to whether they measure up to some invented social construct. For those that struggle with these kinds of things, I am here to tell that this is not how God sees you. He does not care how loud of a black man you might be, like Detective Carter, or how wise you should be as Inspector Lee. A movie like this paints with broad strokes because it is relying on certain things to be understood subconsciously. I mean, how funny is it to put together an African American and a Chinese person, right? Thankfully, God created us to be much more.
Because I have reviewed the first Rush Hour, I might as well do the sequels. So, get ready for those. Sometimes I choose these movies based on how well I remember them. The only time I saw these was in the movie theater, so I guess I should be paying attention. As for this one, I think you are probably better off skipping it.
2 thoughts on “Rush Hour, by Albert W. Vogt III”