Are there worse directors than Brett Ratner? Sure there are. However, movie fanboys usually reserve most of their vitriol for Brett Ratner, the director of the RUSH HOUR series, X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, THE FAMILY MAN, and RED DRAGON. I think the hatred stems from his perfect record of fucking up beloved projects that he should have never touched in the first place (i.e. X-MEN: THE LAST STAND, RED DRAGON). I include myself among the Brett Ratner haters precisely for this reason. I have seen enough of his films to conclude that Ratner is one of those directors who may understand the technicalities of filmmaking, but he completely lacks any creative talent. He can go into the minutiae of the differences between various lenses and cameras and the best way to light a scene. He even seems to be well versed in film history and has demonstrated a deep appreciation for good movies. Unfortunately, none of this translates into any ability to tell a good story. When it comes to storytelling, Ratner doesn’t know a lick of shit. His movies are an amalgamation of material contained in other, better movies. They come off as studio executive/decision by committee-created narratives. In short, Brett Ratner is one of the most untalented hacks working in Hollywood.

RUSH HOUR, Ratner’s first film and the film that put him on the map, is a movie that works solely because of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker and their chemistry together. Remove them from the equation and RUSH HOUR is nothing more than a run-of-the-mill action comedy that resembles every single action movie that came out during the 80s (NOTE: RUSH HOUR was released in 1998). Tucker is a loud-mouthed, smooth-talking LAPD detective who has been assigned to basically babysit Chan, a Hong Kong detective who arrives in LA to investigate the kidnapping of the Chinese counsel’s daughter by a mysterious crime lord known as Juntao. Tucker and Chan team up to find the bad guys and get the little girl back to her daddy.

This movie has a simple enough premise that merely serves to give you Jackie Chan kicking ass and Chris Tucker being funny. I don’t think it tries to be more than that and Ratner was smart enough to allow Chan and Tucker drive the movie. This is the type of film that audiences go to see to watch a lot of shit explode and to laugh at funny shit. For a movie like this, the story should be pretty straightforward (something that the recently released THE OTHER GUYS completely ignored). Its merely a setup for our characters to get into situations so they can give the audiences what is expected of them. I actually didn’t mind the story, but I was a little perplexed by the bad guys’ demands that they be paid $50 million in exchange for the little girl’s return. Maybe I’ve allowed Dr. Evil’s lessons from AUSTIN POWERS to influence me too much or I’ve simply seen too many action films, but couldn’t the bad guys have asked for more money? Whats more, didn’t they know from countless TV shows and films that anytime you ask for ransom money, you never fucking receive it? My point is that I wish the filmmakers had formulated a different goal for the bad guys instead of just having them ask for money.

I also don’t think it would have hurt the film’s box office chances if Ratner had deviated a little from the action-comedy formula. For example, did we really need to see another hard-ass police chief who gives our main character grief? Couldn’t we for once have seen the FBI not be portrayed as arrogant incompetents who look down upon the police? Finally, did the villains really have to be so serious all of the time and always appear to be just sitting around waiting for the ransom money to arrive or to be dispatched to kill the good guys? A little diversity in your story goes a long way and I wish Ratner took a few more risks in telling his story.

As I said before, Ratner has shown that he knows a little bit about film history and I think that’s something that’s woefully lacking in many of today’s filmmakers. Ratner pays a little homage to ENTER THE DRAGON at the beginning of RUSH HOUR by panning across Hong Kong with a film score by Lalo Schifrin, the composer for DRAGON. If you don’t know who Schifrin is, he is one of the most well-regarded film composers in Hollywood (he composed the theme for the MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE TV series) and one of its most creative in terms of his distinct sound. I guess you can also say that Ratner’s pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker is his contribution to the action-comedy buddy genre of the 1980s where we saw Eddie Murphy and Nick Nolte in 48 HRS and Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in LETHAL WEAPON. Besides it being a tried and true formula for box office success, it’s a type of movie that anyone who grew up watching the 80s action blockbusters would jump at the chance to make one himself.

RUSH HOUR is all about and only about Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. Its not like anyone sees the trailer for this movie and says, “What an awesome movie! I think I’ll go see it to see what happens to the little girl.” I already knew about Jackie Chan and sorta dug his shit, but for me this movie was all about Chris Tucker. Since the demise of Eddie Murphy, many have tried to claim Murphy’s crown, but none of have succeeded until Chris Tucker came along. This guy doesn’t need Jackie Chan to open a movie as he is the real deal. He may not star in the best films, but his talent is so exceptional that you really don’t care whether the movie he’s in is any good. MONEY TALKS was a piece of SHIT, but it didn’t matter because Chris Tucker was absolutely on fire. The only drawback to his performance in RUSH HOUR is that the film is rated PG-13 so he had to really tone down his comedy. Regardless, Tucker owns the movie and its worth watching for him alone. Sadly, Tucker has not made very many films since RUSH HOUR (in fact, he’s basically only made the RUSH HOUR sequels) and I’m afraid we’re probably not going to see him in much else in the future.

Jackie Chan does a fine job as well in RUSH HOUR, but due to his age and I assume strict insurance restrictions, he doesn’t provide the same level of intensity and creativity in his stunts as he does in his Hong Kong films. Chan’s work is cut out for him in RUSH HOUR because without the reality-defying acrobatics Chan is so famous for, his role in this movie is easily eclipsed by Tucker. Chan no doubt attracted a sizable fanbase to come see this movie and for the most part he doesn’t disappoint (check out the sequence set inside the Chinese restaurant. The shit Chan does with a chair is inhuman). The actor also displays his versatility with comedy and he does a great job complementing Tucker’s character. The chemistry between the two actors is understated and without it, this movie would not have worked regardless of the individual talents of the two leads. The clash between eastern and western cultures is perfectly embodied in these characters and it provides endless comedic opportunities as well as character development.

RUSH HOUR is an entertaining escapist diversion that caters directly toward the most mainstream of mainstream audiences. It is a movie that was probably market tested and finessed endlessly in order to appeal to every market demographic. And you know what? It worked. Its mindless, harmless fantasy and if that’s what you want, then you will get a spoonful of it with RUSH HOUR.

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