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PopGap #25: Rush Hour (1998)

PopGap #25: Rush Hour (1998)

Written by dorrk
11 February 2017

Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?

I caught on to Jackie Chan in the early 1990s, when a local repertory cinema began showing his great Hong Kong action movies, like Police Story, Project A 2, and Dragons Forever. Within a few years, however, Chan began angling for a move to Hollywood, and his Hong Kong movies were being watered down, not only re-edited and badly dubbed but also written with American consumption in-mind, resulting in dispiritingly silly trainwrecks like Rumble in the Bronx, which, fun kung fu aside, is on par with Ernest Goes to Camp. While I didn't formally boycott Chan's U.S. career, I had zero interest in it, and when his first major U.S. release, Rush Hour, became a surprise hit, the presence of co-star Chris Tucker (who single-handedly ruined The Fifth Element) was added incentive for me to stay away. With all that baggage, being forced to watch Rush Hour for this month's Potluck Film Festival turned into a pleasant surprise.

Chan and Tucker co-star in Rush Hour as reluctantly paired detectives on the trail of a kidnapped girl. In addition to the usual "buddy cop" bickering between mixed-race mavericks, Rush Hour mines a lot of material from the cultural and linguistic gulf between its stars — but there's no sharp social commentary behind it; this is a Brett Ratner movie, after all. Aiming squarely at the middle (maybe a little lower), Rush Hour's plot, humor and racial dynamics are strictly run-of-the-mill; yet, it's swift and amusing, and even Tucker manages to impress as capably charming, despite playing what is essentially a retread of Eddie Murphy's 1980s street-smart wiseacre shtick but stuck with the pitch knob turned to +9. While the action is also largely formulaic, Chan is allowed a handful of dynamic fight sequences, each of which includes his special brand of skillful and cleverly comedic martial arts choreography and stuntwork to whet the appetite for his more ambitious films.

Rush Hour was brought to my Potluck Film Fest by Andrew Kendall, who can be found on Flickchart under the username mistwhisper117. He ranks it on his Flickchart at #330 (69%, out of 1072 movies) where it's his 9th favorite martial arts movie out of 45. On my chart, Rush Hour ranked at #1626 (56%), which puts it at #42 out of the 75 martial arts movies I've seen (there's a lot more from this genre coming in March, as this tradition is revived).

PopGap #25: Rush Hour (1998)

Trailer for Rush Hour (1998)