When the Chinese consul's daughter is kidnapped he prefers to hire his old Hong Kong inspector, rather than rely on the FBI. The inspector teams up with an LAPD inspector, also sidelined, and the unlikely pair reluctantly go to work together.
Arriving on these shores with almost $130 million of US box office receipts in its pocket, Rush Hour's attempts to resuscitate the buddy movie genre have proven so profitable that a sequel is set to make its mark in multiplexes as early as next Christmas. And if Chan and Tucker don't have quite the same box office pulling power here, this glossy blend of amiable comedy and beautifully choreographed action should still keep up suitable levels of interest.
The serviceable plot (for really it does just serve as a framework to showcase the manic energy of its leading men) has Chan, as Detective Inspector Lee, summoned from Hong Kong to LA by the Eastern city's US consul whose daughter has been kidnapped by Oriental crimelords. The FBI, however, far from keen to land in a diplomatic pickle if harm should befall the new arrival, employs the services of LAPD loose cannon James Carter (Tucker) to keep Lee as far away from the case as possible.
It's a scheme that swiftly hurtles out of control; Lee is determined to crack the case, while Carter, aggrieved with his apparent babysitting gig, has his own plans to rescue the kidnapped tyke. Forming the de rigueur initially reluctant partnership, the two decide to take matters into their own hands.
Despite its title, Rush Hour takes an uncomfortably long time to fully crank up, with much of the first half devoted to Tucker's love-it-or-hate-it sub-Eddie Murphy shtick. Given that his obviously huge talents are here given over to lame Michael Jackson impersonations and all the variants on ass-kicking related dialogue the script can muster, this soon begins to grate.
Luckily Chan, imbued with all the gleeful innocence of a tourist abroad for the first time, manages to save the day, actually tempering Tucker's hyperkinetic behaviour with some of his own as the pair attempt to overcome their cultural differences to save the day.
And here's where the movie really kicks in, because when Tucker is forced to stop whining and actually play off his new-found partner, he is far more likeable; and of course, this gives Chan a chance to break into the blistering, balletic brand of action that made his name. The set pieces that follow are masterly, as Chan sets about defeating the bad guys with snooker cues, bar stools and, in one vintage sequence, a set of priceless ming vases he's desperate to keep intact.
In short, Rush Hour may be as brainless as they come, with its thankless support roles (Wilkinson as a British ambassador, Pena as an LAPD bomb disposal expert) ropey script, and entirely predictable outcome, but taken as an unfussy crowd-pleaser it amply delivers the goods.
By the book buddy-buddy movie. This is a weakly scripted parade of set-pieces which aren't as exciting as regular Jackie Chan films.