I’m going to go ahead and say it: There’s a certain genius to Brett Ratner. He’s got no more and no less talent than, say, largely unknown directors like Adam Shankman (The Pacifier, Bringing Down the House), Brian Levant (Are We There Yet?, Snow Dogs), or Brian Robbins (Norbit, The Shaggy Dog), but Ratner has been able to parlay that mediocrity into a pretty decent career, mostly involving turning a modest profit with franchises past their prime (Red Dragon, X-Men 3) or extracting every last cent out of a blandly offensive Rush Hour trilogy. He’s a shitty director, but then again, he doesn’t aspire to be much else; he’s just another Hollywood hired gun, different only in his self-made celebrity, which he’s largely created in opposition to those who dislike him (a hatred largely manufactured by Defamer on a slow news day that steamrolled). Hell, if Ratner weren’t so reviled, the only way anyone would know him was from his segment on “Punk’d.” He gives studios what they want — serviceable, substandard fare with just enough flash to make a marketable trailer. He’s space filler — he makes Michael Bay’s work look profound by comparison. I don’t hate Ratner, but then again, I didn’t have anything invested in the X-Men films. To me, he hardly warrants the vitriol a lot of folks direct toward him. It’s sort of like yelling at a kid who wipes his feces on a bathroom stall. He doesn’t know any better, and to call attention to it just emboldens him, which is probably how he got the green light to make Rush Hour 3.
I can also see where some might have a weakness for these films; personally, if I had soft spot for the Rush Hour flicks, I’d hope someone would jab the sharp end of a broomstick in it so that it’d scab over. But that’s just personal taste. These films are completely disposable, completely forgettable, studio-driven cinematic schlock created to sell popcorn, soda, and Ratner action figure (it pees in a keg and makes out with a starletard when you pull its string). Besides setting, there’s absolutely nothing to distinguish Rush Hour 3 from the first two installments. It’s the exact same formula: Invent a bad guy, chase down bad guy, throw in some wicked bad one liners, a few jokes just offensive enough to attract the media’s attention, chase Jackie Chan up a wall, catch bad guy, roll blooper reel (which is always the highlight of these films).
This time, the setting is Paris for no other reason than it offers the Eiffel tower as a decent set piece for the finale, and it gives Ratner another canned stereotype to work with (the French hate America — ha ha ha! French people are gay by virtue of their accent —- ha ha ha!) The film starts with Det. James Carter (Chris Tucker) doing his familiar Michael Jackson routine, only he’s doing it here while directing traffic and throwing in a touch of R. Kelly. He and his partner from the first two films, Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) have had an unexplained falling out involving Carter shooting Lee’s girlfriend in the neck a few years back. No matter — the ambassador from China is shot, and the two quickly reteam to chase down the people behind the attempted assassination. The trail takes them to Paris, where they learn that the whole motive behind the ambassador’s attack had something to do with the World Criminal Court and a list tattooed on the back of a stripper’s head. I couldn’t quite follow it all, and that was either because it was so smart it went over my head, or more likely: It didn’t make any goddamn sense.
The stuff that Ratner fills in between discovering there is a bad guy and tracking him down is the usual agonizing bullshit: silly racial humor, “Three Stooges” shenanigans, and kung-fu fisticuffs. Granted, the humor here is a bit more offensive than in the previous installments (an Abbot and Costello “Who’s on First” routine with two Chinese men named You and Me is the lowlight). It says something when China — the country that sent us tainted dog food and children’s toys coated with lead paint — refused to import Rush Hour 3. What? They kill our pets and harm our children and they can’t take a stupid “Crouching Tiger Hide your Dragon” joke? Not that I blame them, of course. But I imagine it had less to do with the humor and more to do with the country’s all-pervasive fear that Rush Hour 3 would liquefy their cerebral cortex. The target audience in America doesn’t have much to fear — it melted away a good decade and a half ago, when these buddy cop action comedies rasped their last breath and Ratner took over the title of Head Studio Shill from John Landis.Indeed, Rush Hour looks and feels a lot like a film that sat on a shelf for the last 15 years, waiting for a generation unfamiliar with Lethal Weapon knock-offs to come along and see it with fresh eyes.
Still, Chan — as always — is intermittently fun to watch, though he seems to have lost a step (that’ll happen when you’re in your 50s). Unfortunately, Chris Tucker hasn’t — he’s still running the same old seizure-inducing shtick that expired halfway through Friday into the goddamn ground. The guy has made only three films in the last decade, which is three films too fucking many, if you ask me.
Alas, the best part of the film was a scene in which Chan and Tucker fall down a sewage drain and slide into a huge pit of urine and shit. It’s as close as Ratner is ever going to get to a metaphor, and I almost envy the audacity it takes to flaunt his mediocrity in the face of his audience, as if daring them to grow a goddamn brain cell and take him to task. Unfortunately, I suspect they were too busy laughing at the joke about black people liking sweet potato pie or the nun speaking “brotha” to take much notice.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Ithaca, New York. You may email him, or leave a comment below.
Rush Hour 3 / Dustin Rowles
Film | August 10, 2007 | Comments ()