Crouching clown, hidden racism

Rush Hour II rehashes the original Laurel & Hardy of kung-fooey action

MODERN MINSTRALS For a cool 20 million, talented comedic actor Chris Tucker reprised his <i>Rush Hour</i> role beside partner Jackie Chan.

MODERN MINSTRALS For a cool 20 million, talented comedic actor Chris Tucker reprised his Rush Hour role beside partner Jackie Chan.

Rush Hour II
Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, Zhang Ziyi and John Lone. Directed by Brett Ratner.
Rated 3.0

In one of the more outlandish throwaway jokes in movies of recent memory, the heroes of Rush Hour 2 flee the baddies through a sewer in Los Angeles, and when they come back up to street level, they find themselves in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the imaginative, off-handed humor of that moment is present in too little of the rest of the film.

The thing is not so much a sequel as an unabashed rehash of the first Rush Hour film, with Chan and Tucker playing mismatched police partners again and ricocheting though some cross-cultural comedy and assorted action-movie spoofing. Tucker’s recycling of his two or three best moments from the original wears a little thin at times, but Jackie Chan’s martial-arts stunting is funny and inventive once more.

As a cross-cultural comedy of manners, the film is charming at heart but rancid around the edges (not least because Tucker seems a prime example of a black star bamboozled by the nouveau minstrelsy, c.f. Spike Lee). As a buddy-buddy farrago it’s on firmer ground, owing in particular to the case the stars make for themselves as the Laurel and Hardy of kung-fooey action comedy.

Zhang Ziyi’s leap from myth and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to high-kicking sadism and mod villainy matches up nicely with archetypal Jackie but is weirdly redundant alongside the pathological demon just below the surface of Tucker’s clowning.

Villains John Lone and Alan King bring smooth-talking heft to the dramatic conflicts, but they evoke a deep-seated evil that the two law-enforcing heroes never knowingly confront.