“Rush Hour 2” might be a whole lot better of a movie if the studio agreed to give moviegoers mute buttons to shut up ultra-irritant Chris Tucker, or at least turn down his high-volume dialogue.
Frankly, the only thing that made the first film watchable was Tucker’s athletically gifted co-star Jackie Chan, who’s still on top of his game. But Tucker did his best to screw that up by braying as loudly and as often as possible — like a small, annoying child trying to get a parent’s attention.
Needless to say, he’s at it again in the slightly more watchable sequel, which at least makes the wise decision to show Tucker’s character getting pummeled throughout most of the scenes.
Unfortunately, it still allows him to do the majority of the talking — and there’s a missed opportunity that makes you wonder just what the filmmakers were thinking (more on that later).
Chan and Tucker reprise their respective roles as Hong Kong Police Inspector Lee and LAPD Detective James Carter, who have just arrived in China for a vacation. All Carter wants to do is relax, but Lee takes on an assignment that pretty much guarantees they won’t be relaxing. Lee has been asked to investigate the bombing of the U.S. Embassy there, which has resulted in the deaths of two translators (actually, undercover customs agents investigating a counterfeiting ring).
The main suspect in the bombing is Ricky Tan (John Lone), the charismatic leader of one of the city’s Triad gangs. But before Lee can interrogate him, Tan is assassinated by his second-in-command, the lovely but lethal Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi, from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”). Unfortunately, she also gets the best of the mismatched Lee and Carter, who decide to head back to the United States to find out just what her connection is to a shady American billionaire (Alan King).
While director Brett Ratner does keep the action moving at a brisk pace, he and cinematographer Matthew Leonetti still manage to lose track of Chan in a couple of the best fight scenes — particularly a breathtaking sequence on a bamboo scaffolding.
More egregious than that, though, is the fact that they never give action-veteran Chan a chance to square off in combat against rising star Zhang, who definitely impresses as a villain. (Instead, Tucker is given that daunting task — with his mouth running continuously, of course.)
Providing a sharp counterpoint to Tucker’s overdone “humor,” Chan does nearly as well with verbal comedy as his physical shtick. (And his fans will probably want to stick around for the now-expected outtakes that follow during the closing credits.)
“Rush Hour 2” is rated PG-13 for martial-arts violence and explosive mayhem, scattered use of profanity, some crude and sexually suggestive humor, brief partial male nudity and scattered use of racial epithets. Running time: 91 minutes.