Rush Hour 3

It's all relative: “Rush Hour 2” was such a wretched movie that, by comparison, “Rush Hour 3, the third and hopefully last segment in the stagnant but commercially successful franchise that began in 1998, is easier to takeparticularly if you have no expectations.

Again directed by Bratt Retner, “Rush Hour 3” is hardly a movie with a coherent, or any, plot or shapely structure, even by the decreasing standards of Hollywood actionera. Instead, the movie unfolds as a string of set-pieces (not even subplots) that are loosely linked by the central odd couple: Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

It's been six years since we last experienced the endlessly bickering duo, which might have given a reasonable time to prepare a workable screenplay that will go beyond the East Vs. West formula. But, alas, scripter Jeff Nathanson, either out of laziness or feeling confined by the previous sagas, is all to happy to rehash all the funny and obnoxious elements of the first two flicks.

The brief running time (less than 90 minutes) has less to do with a tautly structured saga or fast speed, but simply with running out of ideas. Additional problems with the third installment derive from a simple biological act: Jackie Chan's aging, not to mention his overexposure in the American movie market over the past decade, in both Honk Kong and English-speaking pictures.

In other words, it may be time to put the franchise, in which each chapter has doubled in costs, to resteven if he does well globally, which I am sure it will.

A mishmash of Chinese mafia, politics, and international relations, this chapter revolves around a deadly secret. In Los Angeles, where the yarn starts, Ambassador Han is about to disclose that he is holding new evidence about the inner workings of the Triads, the most powerful crime syndicate in the world. The Ambassador has discovered the identity of Shy Shen, the center of the crime ring. About to reveal it to the World Criminal Court, he is silenced by an assassin's bullet. The Triads are notorious for going to any lengths to make sure their secrets stay deeply buried.

Enter LAPD Detective Carter (Tucker) and Chinese Inspector Lee (Chan), who, after a long chase scene in L.A., decide to go to Paris to stop a global criminal conspiracy and save the life of an old friend, Ambassador Han's grown-up daughter, Soo Yung (Jinchu Zhang).

As “fish out of water,” Carter and Lee don't know the City of Lights, the language, or even what or who they're looking for. Which means they have to rely on a taxi driver, whose imagination is fueled by American (and Hollywood) notions of violence. It also means that as viewers we get to see Paris' most touristy places, as the duo race across the city, from some famous Paris underground stations to chic nightclubs all the way to the Eiffel Tower.

Special kudos go to the film's casting directors. Secondary characters include, along with the deadly Triads, beautiful women, Youki Kudoh as Jasmine, a club owner who is as alluring as she is dangerous; an angry, delusional cabbie named George, played by the young Gallic director Yvan Attal; an invasive French inspector, which is embodied by director Roman Polanski; and Max von Sydow (the Oscar nominee and one of Ingmar Bergman's most reliable pros) as Reynard, head of the World Criminal Court.

Realizing that the plot is paper-thin, the writers have added a layer of Freudian psychology about surrogate brothers, involving Hiroyuki Sanada as Kenji, a Triad assassin who has mysterious links to Inspector Lee. There are also stronger intimations in this segment of a new, “more mature” brotherly bond between Carter and Lee.

That the couple always runs into the same cabbie, George, and that the latter becomes an unwitting partner in the ensuing adventure and gets to use a gun inspite of himself, goes without saying. Thirty years after his appearance in “Chinatown,” Polanski as French Detective Revi is asked to give Carter and Lee an unorthodox and uncomfortable welcome to Paris, perhaps retaliating for the fact that he is not welcome (and will be arrested due to an old charge) in the U.S.

The plot, such as it is, piles one nonsensical element on top of another, often as an excuse to introduce new persona played by appealing performers, such as rising French actress Nomie Lenoir as Genevieve, a young woman who may hold the key to the Triad conspiracy.

It's easy to swallow this mindless fare, that's more of a spoof of the series, rehashing all the ingredients, than a fresh new chapter. Contributing to the popcorn movie is the creative behind-the-scenes team, led by director of photography J. Michael Muro (“Crash,” among others), production designer Edward Verreaux, and costume designer Betsy Heimann.

The editors, Don Zimmerman, Dean Zimmerman, and Mark Helfrich, do some commendable cutting in the action sequences, as well as one or two sexual scenes set within a posh hotel.

It's noteworthy that the score is by the legendary composer Lalo Schifrin, a major musician who played a crucial role in movie music in the early 1970s, in such Clint Eastwood pictures as “Dirty Harry.” Also contributing to the ephemeral joy of “Rush Hour 3” are stunt coordinators Conrad E. Palmisano and Eddie Braun, who choreographed for Chan some thrilling if by-now mostly familiar fights.

Set on the Tour Eiffel, the climax occupies almost one reel of the film, and you get to see the famous monument from various angles in gloriously nocturnal shots that make you want to revisit Paris.

The dynamic, as explored in the series' first two films, stems from a clash of cultures, languages and personal styles, whereas in “Rush Hour 3,” it's more about the affection and camaraderie between the two characters–and performers. There's also a stronger, more au courant political note of rapprochement, or the benefits of co-existence between French and American culture after a long period animosity and anti-American attitudes by the French, due to charges of economic and cultural imperialism (the McDonald syndrome, the hegemony of Hollywood flicks, and so on).

Cast:

Carter: Chris Tucker
Lee: Jackie Chan
Kenji: Hiroyuki Sanada
Jasmine: Youki Kudoh
Reynard: Max von Sydow
George: Yvan Attal
Genevieve: Noemie Lenoir
Soo Yung: Jinchu Zhang

Credits

Running time: 90 minutes (including outtakes)
MPAA rating: PG-13

New Line Cinema presentation of an Arthur Sarkissian and Roger Birnbaum production
Producers: Arthur Sarkissian, Roger Birnbaum, Jay Stern, Jonathan Glickman, Andrew Z. Davis
Executive producer: Toby Emmerich
Co-producers: James M. Freitag, Leon Dudevoir
Director: Brett Ratner
Screenwriter: Jeff Nathanson, bBased on characters created by Ross LaManna
Camera: J. Michael Muro
Production designer: Edward Verreaux
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Costume designer: Betsy Heimann
Editors: Don Zimmerman, Dean Zimmerman, Mark Helfrich