Dir: Brett Ratner. US. 2007. 91mins.
No matter how fast Chris Tucker shoots his mouth or Jackie Chan flashes his fists, they can't recapture the charm of the original Rush Hour in this third installment. Almost 10 years removed from the first pairing of these mismatched cop partners, Rush Hour 3's culture-clash comedy has lost much of its potency, but director Brett Ratner compensates with several well-constructed action sequences that make for a serviceable sequel.

New Line launches this action-comedy domestically August 10. Though Hot Rod will already be out by that time, trying to muscle in on its turf, Rush Hour 3's familiar mixture of shenanigans and shootouts, aided by its brand-name recognition, will help it rise above the competition. Rush Hour 2, which was released August 2001, commanded $226m domestically, improving on the 1998 original's total of $141m.

The real test for this third film will be to see how much built-in desire there is for another sequel after six years, especially since neither star has generated much box-office in the interim. (Tucker, in fact, has been in no movies of any kind other than the Rush Hour franchise since 1998.)

Rush Hour 3 opens in many international territories on the same date, expanding quickly over the next month. Set largely in Paris, and featuring (as per norm) a myriad of Asian-style fight scenes, the sequel will hope to lure comparable foreign returns to the first two editions. (Rush Hour brought in $103m, while the second collected $121m.) Strong ancillaries seem to be a forgone conclusion.

Los Angeles detective Carter (Tucker) and Chinese inspector Lee (Chan) must reluctantly work together to locate Shy Shen, a mysterious underground figure who holds the secret to exposing the ruthless international crime syndicate known as the Triads. When a clue leads them from LA to Paris, the two men encounter a seductive young woman (Noemie Lenoir) who knows the whereabouts of Shy Shen, but they must avoid the Triads' murderous henchmen.

While the first Rush Hour squeezed significant laughs from the unlikely pairing of a fast-talking, street-savvy African-American lothario and a by-the-book Chinese detective with little grasp of the English language, both sequels have simply transplanted that relationship to exotic locations while rehashing the two men's comedic bickering.

In terms of genuinely funny moments, Rush Hour 3 has more successful gags than the lazy, tossed-together Rush Hour 2, but Tucker's once-inspired high-pitched exclamations and thug bravado have hardened into repetitive self-parody. And since many scenes are punctuated with Tucker's outrageous behavior, the film lurches from moment to moment, stalled by his seemingly improvised one-liners. He's an engaging presence, but one who needs to find new terrain to cover.

Just as Tucker's shtick is getting old, so too is age a factor for Chan. Now in his 50s, the Hong Kong master of balletic martial-arts action no longer can muster the extraordinarily choreographed mayhem that made him a legend. While he still possesses grace and flair, his Buster Keaton-like fluidity is largely gone, taking a backseat to the film's more outlandish, effects-aided stunt scenes.

With his physical gifts diminished, Chan has to resort to comedy that plays up his marble-mouthed English and lack of hipness. In addition, the script (by Jeff Nathanson) endlessly returns to the two men's fractious debates about whether they're friends or just partners, a comic wheeze that was already old by Rush Hour 2.

While the film's humour is only intermittently effective, Rush Hour 3 can lay claim to being the best-directed and most kinetic of the series. As a director, Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand, Red Dragon) has never been good with actors - the film's romance and drama barely register - but his ability to juggle complicated suspense sequences has improved. Specifically, a car chase, an assassination attempt at a high-class Parisian burlesque club during a sultry performance, and the finale battle at the Eiffel Tower demonstrate an energy and enthusiasm that the movie's lethargic banter neglects.

Ironically, this represents a major shift from the first Rush Hour, which was consistently funny but hampered by mediocre action.

Ratner tries to lend some artistic legitimacy to this summer cash-cow by casting respected European film figures, like Max Von Sydow and Roman Polanski, in bit roles. But it doesn't keep Rush Hour 3 from feeling like well-made but soulless Hollywood product.

Production companies/backers
Arthur Sarkissian/Roger Birnbaum Productions

US distribution
New Line Cinema

International sales
New Line Cinema

Arthur Sarkissian
Roger Birnbaum
Jay Stern
Jonathan Glickman
Andrew Z Davis

Executive producer
Toby Emmerich

Jeff Nathanson
Based on characters created by Ross LaManna)

J Michael Muro

Production design
Edward Verreaux

Don Zimmerman
Dean Zimmerman
Mark Helfrich

Lalo Schifrin

Main cast
Chris Tucker
Jackie Chan
Hiroyuki Sanada
Youki Kudoh
Yvan Attal
Noemie Lenoir