|Rush Hour 2 (Infinifilm Edition)|
|Written by Abbie Bernstein|
|Tuesday, 01 June 2004|
Jackie Chan is one of those performers who’s delightful wherever he is and whatever he’s doing. Apart from being one of the most physically adept screen performers around, blending action and slapstick so integrally that we can’t see where one leaves off and the other begins, Chan simply radiates kindly charm. He was an utter pleasure a few years ago in "Rush Hour," playing Hong Kong Investigator Lee, who heads to Los Angeles to investigate the kidnapping of his goddaughter and winds up reluctantly teamed with volatile LAPD detective James Carter (Chris Tucker). This being a buddy cop movie, the two men’s mutual misgivings about their very different styles become affection and respect by the finale.
In "Rush Hour 2," Lee and Carter are reunited on Lee’s home turf of Hong Kong. Carter is here for a vacation and expects his pal Lee to show him a good time, but the workaholic inspector keeps dragging the American along on the job. Every time Lee proposes they do something that sounds like fun to Carter – going to a nightclub or a massage parlor – it turns out to be connected to Lee’s investigation of crime lord Ricky Tan (John Lone), which has roots in Lee’s past as well as a current matter involving funny money and bombings of the Hong Kong U.S. Embassy and Lee’s police station. When he realizes what the stakes are, Carter decides to help Lee out, and the pair (by now disgraced with their superiors in time-honored genre tradition) pursue the case to Los Angeles and on to Las Vegas.
"Rush Hour 2" is pretty amiable and it’s a good showcase for Chan, although truthfully, there’s not as much of him as we might like, as the early sections focus more on Carter’s fish-out-of-water adventures in Hong Kong. Jeff Nathanson’s script (he also did an uncredited rewrite on the first "Rush Hour") doesn’t seem as confident in knowing how to get comic mileage out of the cultural confusion of an American adrift in a Chinese metropolis as the previous film was in playing up Lee’s adventures in a strange land. In fact, even though "Rush Hour 2" is fairly short, it feels like the beginning is padded with comedic vignettes that don’t really help the plot along – it sort of treads narrative water until the investigation kicks in.
However, once Lee and Carter are on the trail, the pace picks up and the movie becomes brisk and funny. While the fights don’t go on with the length and variety that they do in Chan’s Hong Kong movies – one of the featurettes explains the doubtful filmmaking philosophy that American audiences don’t want action sequences that last longer than three minutes in one go – Chan in motion is always spectacular. There’s a massive brawl in Chapter 3 that has the agile actor starting on his back to jump over an ottoman without ever fully straightening up and Chapter 6 has an amazing fight on bamboo building scaffolding (the fact track makes a case that Hong Kong bamboo is stronger than steel). Chapters 16, 27 and 29 have more spectacular hand-to-hand, foot-to-hand combat, some of which also features "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’s" younger leading lady Zhang Ziyi as the determined villainess of the piece.
"Rush Hour 2" is part of New Line’s Infinifilm series, which means it is loaded with featurettes on the making of the film. Many (though evidently not all) of these can be accessed separately via the Special Features menu, or they can be clicked on as they pop up along the Infinifilm version of the movie. A lot of them are pretty specific, like one that crops up in Chapter 32’s "see [director] Brett [Ratner] convincing Chris [Tucker] to say the word ‘bitch’." Tucker, it seems, was deeply reluctant to address a female costar in this manner, even though it’s in character. We see a number of alternate versions of the take, Tucker finally agreeing to try the B word just once, the take itself (used in the film) and Tucker’s reaction to seeing it played back on the monitor. Another appealing bit can be found in Chapter 9, which illustrates how Chan communicates with his stunt team.
The commentary by director Ratner and screenwriter Nathanson is cheerful and anecdote-filled. There are a lot of deleted scenes with optional commentary and an outtake reel that’s cute, although all of the best outtakes are included with the end credits in Chapter 38. There’s also an informative fact subtitle track – this runs with the Infinifilm track, but must be specifically enabled on the Infinifilm menu or it won’t play – that comments on everything from Michael Jackson’s record sales to the life expectancy of Hong Kong residents and the rate of pollution in the harbor. For those who just want to watch the movie without any bells and whistles, there’s the option to just "Play Movie."
The "Rush Hour 2" disc has three sound formats: DTS ES 6.1, EX 5.1 Surround and 2.0 Stereo. This reviewer’s listening environment is equipped for DTS 5.1 but not 6.1, so the EX 5.1 Surround track was evaluated instead. The surround shows up particularly well in crowd scenes – in Chapter 25, we feel squarely in the middle of a crowded casino at Carter’s side. The treatment of explosions is slightly different than the usual, but very effective. Chapter 11 lets the explosion detonate at reasonable volume in the center, sub and mains, then has the fallout hit even harder in the rears, so that the debris seems to not merely be moving in the right direction but achieve velocity in the process. Chapter 30 has the same effect in a more contained environment, making both blast and impact even louder. Chapter 34 has a startling sound effect that is quite loud. Chapter 19 has some particularly nice bass emerging from a car radio.
The ultra-wide 2.35:1 aspect ratio gives scenes a satisfying breadth and the reproduction of the film’s many bright colors is handled with vivid accuracy. Some individual shots with reflected light in dark spaces look a little less than sharp, but this seems more a function of the combination of shadows and a smaller-than-theatrical screen than any fault in the DVD.
"Rush Hour 2" is not the most inspired teaming of Chan with an American partner, but he and Tucker are still enjoyable together and the movie overall provides an energetic good time.