There’s a moment in Rush Hour 3 in which mismatched cop buddies Carter (Chris Tucker – House Party 3, Silver Linings Playbook) and Lee (Jackie Chan – Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, New Police Story) dive headlong into raw sewage in their haste to escape from a gang of Triad gunmen, and one can’t help reflecting on whether someone was making a sly metaphorical comment about the position in which the Rush Hour franchise now found itself. Because, just two movies in, all the life had been wrung from what began as a fun, energetic wheeze, leaving us with a laboured copy, dutifully assembled, like a model airplane, from a checklist of everything that worked from Hours 1 (in particular) and 2. And, like that model airplane, while Rush Hour 3 looks like the real thing, it’s inferior and empty, and never, ever flies.
Carter’s back in uniform at the start of Rush Hour 3, and he’s on traffic duty on a busy intersection at which cars wait impatiently to cross while the rubber-limbed cop practices his funky dance moves. But, guess what? Carter’s so lost in the groove that a couple of motors crash into one another. Oh, the hilarity! And then – guess what? When he discovers the two occupants of one of the vehicles are attractive women he positions them suggestively over the bonnet of their car before pumping them for a date for him and his only friend, Lee! Only, Lee’s got to have the fat one! Hot damn!
Lee is managing security for Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma – Chain Reaction, The Ladykillers), who, viewers of the first movie might remember, was responsible for bringing Carter and Lee together when his daughter was kidnapped in the first Rush Hour movie. So, we don’t feel too bad, then, when Han falls victim to a sniper’s bullet, even if it does mean that, like Carter, Lee really isn’t doing that well in his job.
Han was at a conference of The World Council, where he was about to announce that he’d come into possession of a list revealing the identities of the new leaders of the notorious Triad crime syndicate. Knowing how badly such a fearsome organisation would want to prevent the names on that list becoming public, he passed the list to his now fully-grown daughter (as you do), who, showing the same level of ingenuity and cunning as her father, placed it in her locker at the martial arts studio where she works. Naturally, the list has gone by the time Carter and Lee get to the studio, triggering a search which eventually leads them to Paris.
The appeal of the Rush Hour movies lies in the odd-couple relationship between Carter and Lee, so a certain amount of predictability is understandable – and acceptable – in that respect. We want to see Carter’s brash attitude getting Lee into scrapes, and then have them squabbling about it before moving on to their next misadventure. But they still need a serviceable storyline in which to perform their routines. In Rush Hour 3, all they get is a mind-numbingly predictable boil-in-the-bag plot which never comes close to renewing the dynamic energy of the first movie. The moment Carter and Lee arrive in Paris we know that the film’s finale will take place on the Eiffel Tower, which shines like a beacon in the background of every night-time shot, and will involve at least one bad guy falling to their death. We also know that, as they are in a foreign country, racist jokes will take centre-stage at some point – although, to be fair, no-one could have predicted the cringeworthy awfulness of Carter forcing an American-hating French cab driver (Yvan Attal) to sing the US National Anthem while holding a gun to his head. And a quick scan of the cast list will instantly reveal the identity of the bad guy (here’s a clue: He’s the only Ageing White Man in the cast who wasn’t in Rush Hour or Rush Hour 2). And, of course, we also know, with weary certainty, that, when his henchman is dead and all is lost, rather than fleeing to safety, the Ageing White Man will show up to kill our heroes for no good reason other than to provide an easy, time-saving way to lose his life.