For all the talk of his beguiling cameo as a police chief, Roman Polanski
shows up in Rush Hour 3 for exactly two scenes for about two minutes. In fact, the French police have absolutely nothing to do with anything in the third Rush Hour installment. Polanski simply acts as a diacritic; a punctuation mark to let us know we're entering and exiting the French portion of the program. And although they are given more screen time, Ingmar Bergman-regular Max Von Sydow and French actor/director
serve similar purposes: They're garnish on a liver sandwich made with moldy bread and mayonnaise that started going green around the time of the Bay of Pigs.
Rush Hour 3 plunks our questionable partners, the loose-mouthed Carter (Chris Tucker
) and elastic Lee (Jackie Chan
), into an international scandal involving the Chinese Triad election that takes them from sunny Los Angeles to gay Paris. Lee's friend and employer Consul Hu (Tzi Ma) is about to blow the lid off the Triads when a sniper snags him a few centimeters north of his heart. Hu's friend Vernard (Von Sydow
) OKs Lee and Carter's trip to his hometown of Paris, where, for one reason or another, the Chinese Triad have decided to have an election. Article continues below
The gears of this machine grind hard and they blare out of the speakers during almost every second of Rush Hour 3, exempting the few blissful minutes of Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot's "Bonnie and Clyde" that is played during a burlesque scene. The most surprising aspect of this unneeded and unwanted third chapter is how effectively director Brett Ratner breaks what he'd actually fixed. Originally, Rush Hour was a structure piece: a half-assed Lethal Weapon with less chemistry and more acrobatics. Then, seeing the infantilism of rigid structure, Ratner let it all hang out in Rush Hour 2. Hour 2 was one of those rare moments where the inherent fun of something outweighed the stupidity of it, allowing Chan and Tucker to riff with a loose vitality. It was a pleasure; no guilt about it.
The rigidness of Ratner
's first film has nothing on the stupendous banality of this latest incarnation. Instead of the playful banter that infested the second film, Chan's stiff delivery is punctuated by meaningless and exhaustive one-liners that pour out of Tucker like an oil tanker that just got the business-end of a torpedo. These meaningless ramblings are show ponies in a parade of cluttered storylines and absurd half-notes. The triad is represented by Lee's "brother" Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada
), who shows up when the action needs some sort of meaning. Sanada, a brooding presence in this summer's Sunshine, deserves better than this.
As if knowledgeable of its own instability, Hour 3 rushes to end itself in a manic hobgob of shoot-outs, double-crosses, and absurd one-note jokes. Ratner's film now has sloppy sense of story and pacing while losing the spontaneity that had originally given the film its wild-eyed cheer. In one scene, Lee and Carter's driver (Attal) attempts to shoot someone for no reason, "like an American." Rush Hour 3 then gives him a reason and takes away all the fun of it.