Friday, December 14, 2007

Rush Hour 3: Don't believe the anti-hype

I watched "Rush Hour 3" just a few moments ago and felt compelled to write about it.

The Biggest reason I felt like writing about it is, well, I really miss Jackie Chan. You see, my first memories of Jackie Chan was watching "The Big Brawl" on HBO in the early 1980's. I then saw "The Cannonball Run" a bit later. Although I only knew him through those two movies and "The Protector" until around 1989, I was a fan.

It was in 1990 that TDC began playing "The Incredibly Strange Film Show" and I watched it religiously. I had just begun my descent into Hong Kong Cinema and there were two shows that helped me focus on it: A half segment on Tsui Hark and a full show on Jackie Chan. I must have watched the Jackie Chan segment 30 or 40 times. The show was quite informative and, more importantly, full of clips that gave me incentive to go out and find the full movies. By 1994, I had seen around 70 of Jackie's movies. From his best ("Project A Part 2", "Armour Of God", "Police Story") to his worst ("Killer Meteors", "Fantasy Mission Force", "New Fist of Fury") and just about every one in between. I was a card carrying member of the Jackie Chan Fan Club, of which I am still a honorary member and I played one of his best movies, "Drunken Master 2" as a midnight film the same year it was released.

I was a bit horrified that New Line Cinema chose "Rumble In The Bronx" to be the film to introduce Jackie to American Audiences. I had seen the film and wasn't very happy with it. I was thrilled, however, when US audiences seemed to take to it enthusiastically.

Through the years, I have been following Jackie's post US breakthrough with it's ups and downs, but I've always longed for him to get back on track and give US true fans some more homegrown HK action. There had been some films that did try; "Who Am I?", "Thunderbolt", "Gorgeous", "Mr. Nice Guy" and "The Myth" were all HK productions, but none of them had that FEEL that the older, pre US breakthrough films had.

He did fare a bit better in some of his US endeavours with the Owen Wilson "Shanghai" films and the Chris Tucker "Rush Hour" films being definite highlights. I liked the former series better than the latter, but the "Rush Hour" films seemed to improve from the first to second film.

So, tonight, I decided to give "Rush Hour 3" a try. The verdict? I absolutely loved it. I really did. I'll be damned if it didn't feel like one of those old Jackie Chan films. The plot didn't make too much sense but the film flew by at 80 minutes (that is, minus the end credits). The humor was low but laugh out loud funny and the action sequences were top notch, although, as with a lot of post "Rumble In The Bronx" movies, some of the sequences felt like "Greatest Hits" editions of sequences from earlier, mid to late 80's Jackie Chan films. Best of all, Brett Ratner finally figured out how to make a Jackie Chan film. It took him 3 tries, but he did it. Look, I'm not saying "Rush Hour 3" is a masterpiece by any stretch, but it is a fine return to form for Jackie and a great way to kill 90 minutes (credits included).

But then.... I went and did something stupid. I went to Rotten Tomatoes and the critics on there almost made me feel bad for liking it. Most of the reviews were pans and actually pretty shitty towards the film. A lot of critics took umbrage at Max Von Sidow and Roman Polanski for showing up in it for small roles. Well, to address these complaints, consider that Max Von Sidow is a consummate actor and has appeared in many films; low budget to high / considered good to bad. He was in Dario Argento's "NonHoSonno" ("Sleepless") and saved the entire movie by his presence. I believe most critics are just bursting with sour grapes for one reason or another. It always fascinated me that a film critic would write something along the lines of "I can't believe {insert name here} would have stooped so low as to be in such a film. {person} must have needed the money."

Why anyone would write something like that is beyond me. Is any actor or actress above working? Is there an actor in the world who would say, "This project interests me, but I can't do it because the critics wouldn't like me to do something like that?" I would like to believe there aren't, but I'm sure somewhere there are. The bottom line is, Max Von Sidow was fine in "Rush Hour 3", he didn't embarrass himself, he lent a sense of class to the film and he looked like he was having a great time. What's the problem? In a world where most "actors" these days are actually celebrities, Max Von Sydow is most definitely an Actor. Shut up and let him act.

As for Roman Polanski, why shouldn't he do a small role in a comedy? He had a tiny role in "Blood For Dracula" in the early 70's, but I'm sure today's "well read" film critic wouldn't know anything about that (for you up and coming critics, that movie was AKA "Andy Warhol's Dracula", FYI). Furthermore, unless someone read the end credits or had press notes prior to viewing "Rush Hour 3", I doubt ANYONE would have recognised Polanski in the film. Really, do you think there's anyone in Western film criticism that was watching "Rush Hour 3" and thought to themselves, "Oh my God! That's Roman Polanski! What's he doing in this movie???" Yeah, me neither. It did amuse me during the end credits to see that it was him, I admit.

There were other issues the critics seemed to take the film to task for that I really can't make too much sense of. There seemed to be much hemming and hawing about Jackie Chan's age. Most critics probably can't get their 23 year old super sized asses out of a theater seat after a movie and there they are saying Jackie's showing his age. Jackie's doing fine at 53. I'd much rather watch him at his age in an action movie that watch Matt Damon (or his stunt double) in yet another ridiculous Bourne movie. There were also complaints about the movie being formulaic and preposterous. This movie isn't "Hotel Rwanda", people. It's a summer buddy cop movie. Deal.

The funniest complaint is about the rampant racism in the film. God help me. The "Rush Hour" franchise is built on racism, though some would argue it's simply culture clashes. Bull, it's racism. Chris Tucker spent the first two movies completely making light of the entire Chinese culture. This third film shows him respectful and more enlightened than ever (no more Blacenese jokes, thankfully) and suddenly NOW the film is racist. Of course, this is nothing compared to the one critic that called "Rush Hour 3" Anti-American. I wish this person could show me where the Anti-American sentiment was. Was it because a Cab Driver didn't want to give Chris Tucker's character a ride because he was American... or was it because the same Cab Driver later wanted to be an American so he could kill senselessly? Yeah. For some reason, I don't believe those comments were too far off the mark. I would imagine there is a world view of the US exactly like that a lot of people abroad would believe.

So, in short I do recommend "Rush Hour 3". You could do much worse on a cold winter's night. It should be out on DVD soon. Me, I'm gonna go watch "Project A Part 2" now. Jackie! Make more movies, please.

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