Sunday, 4 December 2016

Rush Hour (5 Stars)

I first saw "Rush Hour" when I lived in America, and I immediately loved it. It was probably in 2000, about 18 months after its initial cinema release. What I didn't realise at the time was that it was Jackie Chan's international breakthrough. This wasn't obvious to me because I had known him for years. After Bruce Lee's death in 1973 Jackie Chan was touted as the new Bruce Lee. I watched a few of his films and quickly dismissed the comparison with Bruce Lee as a hollow marketing slogan. Jackie Chan was no Bruce Lee. I'm sure that Jackie would be the first to agree with me. On the other hand, Bruce Lee was no Jackie Chan. Jackie has a unique style that sets him apart from other actors. In an interview that I heard a few years ago he said that his favourite actor is Buster Keaton. As soon as he said that it hit me. "So that's who he reminds me of". It's so obvious when you know it.

In the late 1970's I watched a lot of Chinese martial arts films, mostly in a cinema next to the Christian Science reading room in Sutton Coldfield. I don't remember their names, there were so many of them. What I do remember is that Jackie Chan was in a lot of them, so when I saw him in "Rush Hour" he was already a familiar face.

By 1998 Jackie Chan had made more than 60 films. The difference with "Rush Hour" was that it was made in the USA. Chris Tucker was well known at the time, but Jackie was a new face in Hollywood. The two were given equal billing and equal screen time in the film, which was a big risk for normally cautious Hollywood, but it paid off. "Rush Hour" was the ultimate buddy movie. The chemistry between the two lead actors was amazing. Chis Tucker's eccentric but efficient style as a policeman, seemingly taking nothing seriously, contrasted with Jackie Chan's no nonsense approach to police work.

Two men come together from two different cultures. James Carter (Chris Tucker) is a detective and undercover cop for the LAPD. ("We're the most hated cops in the free world. My Mama is so ashamed of me, she tells everybody I'm a drug dealer"). Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) works for the Hong Kong police force. Lee's friend Han is sent to Los Angeles to become the Chinese consul. Han's daughter is kidnapped, and he demands that Lee assist the FBI in finding her. At first the FBI is annoyed by the outside interference and asks Carter to keep Lee away from the investigation, but Lee insists on doing his job and Carter gladly helps him.

I expect most people have seen this film and its sequels already. If not, what are you waiting for? Here are the links to buy the film.

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