Dir: Brett Ratner. US. 2001. 87 min.

Neither terribly exciting asan actioner, nor sufficiently funny as a comedy, Rush Hour 2 re-teams the odd couple of the first film, theendlessly bickering Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, placing them in the most routineand movie-ish situations imaginable. Coldly calculated, but still rather flat,the "new" action comedy basically rehashes the first, far superiorfilm, while increasing the female quotient, which now included the tough andbeautiful Asian actress, Zhang Ziyi, of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame (pictured above). Fans of Rush Hour will account for a solid opening, but, unlike The Mummy Returns and other sequels, it's doubtful that Rush Hour 2 will outshine the first picture, which grossed $250m globally (of which $140m were generated domestically), and was a hot video item all over the world. Burdened by an inflated budget, due to the oversized paychecks of both stars, Rush Hour 2 has one or two weeks week to play, before facing late summer competition.

As high-concept as summerpopcorn movies can be, Rush Hour 2 exploits the disparity of styles and love-haterelationship of the East's fastest hands and legs (Chan) and the West's biggestand filthiest mouth (Tucker). This time around, Chan plays chief inspector Lee,of the Royal Hong Kong Police, who arrives in Hong Kong for a much-neededvacation with his partner, LAPD detective James Carter.

Armed with his Chinese/Englishdictionary, Carter is looking forward to, as he says, "sampling some ofthe city's exotic delights." However, as soon as they arrive, the ever-dedicatedLee is faced with the biggest case of his career. Less than 10 minutes into thestory, a bomb explodes in the American Embassy, killing two US customs agentswho had been investigating a money-smuggling ring that's producing and shipping"superbills," high-grade counterfeit American money.

At first, the prime suspectis Ricky Tan (Lone), the smooth and cunning head of the Fu-Cang-Long Triad,China's deadliest gang. Assigned to crack the case, Carter sees it as aninterruption in his holiday plans, but for Lee the task assumes a more personalmeaning, since Tan was once his father's partner on the Hong Kong police force.In what is the picture's most shameless cliche, used to death inAmerican action pictures, it's revealed that Lee's father was killed, with allevidence destroyed; this explains Lee's obsessive urge to redeem his father'shonour.

In the background, the HongKong and US authorities are fighting over the case's jurisdiction, while thetruly heroic Lee and the reluctantly heroic Carter go from one predictablemishap to another. The reversal of the fish-out-of-water formula, with thistime around Carter being the odd man out and Lee serving as his instructor,yields some funny results. In one of the movie's more amusing moments, Leetells Carter in his far from perfect English, "In Hong Kong, I'm MichaelJackson, and you're Toto."

Two beautiful femmesdecorate the saga, adding sexy flesh to what's a skin-deep script. One is Hu Li(Ziyi) is introduced as Tan's gorgeous but deadly henchwoman, who knocks Carterdown at least three times. And there's also an alluring Latina, Isabella Molina(Sanchez), a mysterious, seemingly corrupt US secret service agent.

Though credited to a writer,Jeff Nathanson, the schematic, by-the-book story feels as if it wereconstructed around exotic locales and big-budget, special effects explosions. Hence,almost every sequence terminates with the outburst of bomb, and the only thingthat changes is the site, which switches from Hong Kong to L.A. and then to LasVegas. Similarly, the fights begin in a crowded and noisy disco, and then moveto a massage parlour (which offers one of the movie's few delightful stunts), ayacht full of chic passengers, and a fast-moving truck containing the dirtymoney. The well-shot climax occurs during the spectacular opening night of theRed Dragon Hotel-Casino on the Vegas strip, owned by Tan's partner, StevenReign (King), a sleazy American billionaire entrepreneur.

At the film's premiere, Chantold reporters that he would like to do more acting and less physical fightingin his future career, which is too bad for his fans. Chan arrived in Hollywoodas Hong Kong's action-vaudevillian king, with an undeniable charm as asuperhero-cum-comedian in fast-moving actioners that displayed his amazinglyacrobatic pyrotechnics. The highly kinetic action in Chan's Hong Kong -- andearly American - movies had little to do with logic or realism andeverything to do with tempo, rhythm, and design. Unfortunately, with theexception of a few moments, Rush Hour 2 lacks the visual pleasure andplayfulness that are associated with Chan's shrewdly manipulated, cartoon-likeviolence.

Prod co: A New Line presentation of an Arthur Sarkissianand Roger Birnbaum production
US dist: New Line
Int'l dist: New Line Int'l
Exec prods: Andrew Z. Davis, Michael De Luca, Toby Emmerich
Prods: Arthur Sarkissian, Roger Birnbaum
Scr: Jeff Nathanson
DoP: Matthew F. Leonetti
Prod des: Terence Marsh
Ed: Mark Helfrich
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Main cast: Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, John Lone, Alan King, Roselyn Sanchez, Zhang Ziyi