Well, here we go with Rush Hour 2 (2001). Pardon me if that is not the most enthusiastic of starts. In reflecting just this moment, I ask myself: why did we ever like these movies? To be fair, there are worse films. I have reviewed some of the most unwatchable pieces of cinema known to man. Yet, this trilogy bears a little more thought. They were big time blockbusters, and as I mentioned in my discussion of Rush Hour (1998), they starred two of the bigger actors at the time. I also covered there the stereotypes used for comedic purposes. That is also going to be a hard theme to get beyond with Rush Hour 2. Can it be they we as a society were just a little more ignorant at that time? I suppose that could be the answer, and if so, what does that say about where we are now? If we are more enlightened, then why do apparently racially motivated things continue to happen? At the same time, one could argue that us not seeing more movies like these is evidence of progress. These are questions that are far more sophisticated than the film deserves.
Rush Hour 2 picks up right where its predecessor left off. In case you cannot remember what that was (and who could blame you?), Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) of the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has come to Hong Kong, the home town of one of their most respected cops, Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan). However, Inspector Lee cannot let Detective Carter have a normal vacation, and drags his loudly complaining friend into every investigation into which he is called. This gets an extra jolt when a mysterious person delivers a package to the American Embassy that turns out to be a bomb. The resulting explosion kills two Secret Service officers that had been working to bring down Triad boss Ricky Tan (John Lone). The case is also personal for Inspector Lee as Tan had once been a member of the Hong Kong Police Force (HKPF) and had been partners with Inspector Lee’s father. Detective Carter is sympathetic since his own father had been a cop and also died on the job. He is also wanting to enjoy his vacation. On the pretext of finally showing Detective Carter a good time, Inspector Lee takes them to a massage parlor frequented by Tan. In the inevitable scuffle, following the predictable bravado with which Detective Carter attempts to arrest Tan, they end up being captured and released naked in the streets of Hong Kong. When they get back to the station, Detective Carter leaves in a huff. He does so minutes before another explosive is delivered to the precinct. Inspector Lee believes Detective Carter to still be in the room in which the blast occurs, but carries on with his investigations all the same. Of course, Detective Carter is not dead, and is instead following his own leads with Tan. Separately, they arrive at a fancy yacht where Tan is throwing a party. It is there that Detective Carter meets Agent Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sánchez), an undercover agent for the Secret Service. She is there because she is on the tail of Steven Reign (Alan King), a corrupt Los Angeles businessman in possession of printing plates capable of printing American currency. For Inspector Lee’s part, he goes after Tan, who is in league with Reign. Tan confesses to Inspector Lee, who believes that the crime boss is a friend because of the connection to Inspector Lee’s father, that he believes someone in his organization is trying to kill him. This is when one of his lieutenants, the mysterious package deliverer, Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi), shoots Tan. Another fight follows, with Detective Carter and Inspector Lee reuniting. Detective Carter also has a lead, and they travel to Los Angeles to keep tabs on Reign. While staking out the businessman’s apartment, they witness Hu Li bring a parcel to the door, which is accepted by Agent Molina. Believing it to be yet another bomb, they hurry to Agent Molina only to find that it is filled with counterfeit cash, part of her continued cover. She then asks for their help in tracking down any other false bills that might have been spread around town. In turn, they go to one of Detective Carter’s informants, who then points them on to a bank in downtown Los Angeles. This trail of breadcrumbs unfortunately leads them directly to Hu Li, whose thugs knock out and capture Detective Carter and Inspector Lee. They are put on a truck headed to Las Vegas and the opening of Reign’s new casino, the Red Dragon, which will be where the counterfeit money will be laundered. Of course, Detective Carter and Inspector Lee escape and enter the casino floor. Agent Molina takes this opportunity to point out where the plates are to Inspector Lee. To go after them, Detective Carter provides a loud distraction as only he can, which allows Inspector Lee to get to the restricted areas. Yet, once more he is taken prisoner by Hu Li, who then takes him to the (dun, Dun, DUN!) still alive Tan. Anyway, in true mustache twirling villain fashion, Tan reveals his master plan. There is more punching and kicking, blah, blah, blah. The long and short of all this is that, after Tan murders Reign for the plates, Inspector Lee overpowers Tan and is about to shoot the Triad boss in the face out of revenge. Detective Carter even eggs on his erstwhile partner. The decision is taken out of his hands when the mortally wounded Hu Li staggers into the room with yet another bomb, and they barely escape with their lives. The final scene is of them at the airport convincing each other to go to New York City together.
As alluded to earlier, it is slim pickings once more with Rush Hour 2, and this is also true from a Catholic perspective. In other words, I have to force it a little with these movies. Since any choice is as good as the other, I shall examine the relationship between Inspector Lee and Tan. For much of the movie, Inspector Lee believes Tan to have not been responsible for the death of Inspector Lee’s father. There is a connection, but Inspector Lee does not know the truth. Hence, when he does find out, you can understand why he might have a gun on Tan. It is difficult for anyone who has not had to deal with such pain to control themselves when fate seemingly brings an opportunity to deal out justice with one’s own hands. Like the loftier questions I asked in the introduction, the deeper meaning of justice at play here probably never entered the minds of anyone on set. Still, the idea remains: we do not truly understand what justice means. Only God does in the end. In fact, the kind of eye-for-an-eye remediation that we see in the movie, and others like it, is one of the many things Jesus came into the world for us to put aside. That does not mean that we should not redress offenses. Our court system, though still flawed, exists for these reasons. At the same time, it should be remembered that God sees all, and that even our worst enemies deserve a chance at redemption.
Of course, you can get these lessons that I pulled out of Rush Hour 2 from much better sources. Outside of nostalgia, and that is only the flimsiest of reasons, I can think of no excuse to watch this film. It has just enough of the wrong stuff to make it unwatchable.