I hereby grant you permission to see Rush Hour 2. Go ahead, enjoy! As long as you can grit your teeth with an embarrassed smile through the cultural and racial stereotypes, this buddy action flick spotlights Jackie Chan at his limber, boneless best. Director Brett Ratner keeps the film moving along fast enough that you won't shift uncomfortably in your seat for long before another action sequence kicks in.
Stretching from the massage parlours and nightclubs of Hong Kong to the glitz and greed of Las Vegas, Rush Hour 2 re-teams Detective Inspector Lee (Chan) and his American partner/sidekick James Carter (Chris Tucker). The duo battle bad guys and woo winning women, and naturally go up against an international crime ring armed only with their fists and quick wits.
The movie opens with Lee and Carter bickering, as per the Lethal Weapon formula. Carter wants a sex-laden Hong Kong vacation, while his friend is obsessed with capturing Ricky Tan (John Lone), a Chinese gangster suspected of bombing the American Embassy. Soon, the duo are combating a vicious gang on a bamboo scaffolding, and Chan's trademark creativity in fight choreography leaps to the forefront.
This is also our heroes' first encounter with the lovely, deadly Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon). Note to Lucy Liu: you've got competition in the merciless Asian femme fatale department. To the delight of male viewers, Zhang and fellow eye candy Roselyn Sanchez, as scantily clad customs agent Isabella Molina, keep popping up while Lee and Carter track the crime ring through the Hong Kong harbour to Los Angeles and, finally, Las Vegas.
The plot is mildly compelling. It includes smuggling, a counterfeit ring, and undercover U.S. Customs agents, with Lee potentially taking revenge on - or is it saving? - Tan, who is his dead father's former partner. Chan is such a joy to watch on-screen that the story hardly matters.
Tucker does a serviceable job, with credible fight sequences, one keen imitation of Michael Jackson, and the occasional successful joke. He's unfortunately the mouthpiece for most of the film's misinformed Asian stereotypes, which screenwriter Jeff Nathanson apparently thinks are funny.
To be fair, there are some very amusing moments between Chan and Tucker, such as Carter accidentally punching Lee when they're fighting Chinese gangsters, and complaining: "All y'all look alike."
Jeremy Piven is hysterical in a cameo as a Versace salesman. And some of the cultural interplay prompts a chuckle.
Still, it's telling that the outtakes - a Jackie Chan signature - are funnier than the movie itself.