Whenever the metropolitan madness reaches its peak with traffic congestion, the words “rush hour” activate a little impulse in the back of one’s mind that forces us to reminisce about the 1998 film, Rush Hour. The worldwide appeal around the film is immense, as it launched Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker’s careers as the funniest fighting duo in Hollywood.
Lee (Chan) and Carter (Tucker) are police detectives from their respective homelands, China and the USA, and are partnered together through mistreatment at the hand of the FBI, with Carter given a babysitter tour guide assignment to keep Lee out of trouble. Both have other intentions however, and go out of their wits to figure out the how to find the Chinese Consul’s daughter, who was kidnapped by the mysterious mob boss Juntao.
Interestingly, Rush Hour deals with the two powerhouse nations on the planet. The protagonists each form half of both nationalities, and at times we see a prevalence of xenophobia as each culture attempts to assert its own in higher regards.
As the film continues, the friction of hostility between the two becomes indistinct, largely due to the relationship shared between Chan and Tucker who take the seriousness away from the disparities. The leads are so raucously natural and comfortable together that everything else ceases to matter, as you just want to enjoy their company for the remainder of the film.
Jackie Chan portrays Detective Inspector Lee, a Hong Kong cop who arrives in the USA, personally requested by the Chinese Consul, to assist in the search for the kidnappers. But when he arrives in the US, Detective James Carter is waiting to take him sightseeing. Nevertheless, he soon squirms his way out of Tucker’s gaze using his fantastic agile talents, until he is caught and both he and Tucker’s friendship begins to blossom.
Chan cemented himself as one of the greatest actors in Hollywood for some time because he was so hands-on in the role. Performing his own stunts for the spectacular action sequences, he wriggles himself into the tightest of spaces and fights his way out of trouble with his impressive martial art abilities.
Chris Tucker plays Detective James Carter, the loud-mouthed arrogant and reckless police officer given the job of looking after Chan, but his ambitions and furiousness at being mistreated by the FBI cause him to take matters into his own hands.
Tucker is widely remembered for his endless talking. He is tremendously agitated in the way he projects himself, and the nonsense that leaves his mouth is truly funny. Carter and Lee are completely opposing characters, but it is in fact their differences which make them the best of partners. Together, Chan and Tucker make a formidable duo that brings this film its comedic life.
Besides the charismatic couple at the film’s forefront, the comedy in Rush Hour was also extremely refreshing for its time of release. The mixture of physical and oral comedy is perhaps one of the greatest complementary blends seen in a comedy, and it remains remarkably funny to this day. Tucker delivers most of the laughs due to his incessantly squeaky voice that never seems to silence.
Lee’s obliviousness and difference to his counterpart, which is commented on a lot by his partner (a representation of the breakdown of nationalistic tensions) is what makes both of them tick together. Chan’s attempts to replicate some of the aspects of the American lifestyle and language of his partner, such as Lee’s almost incomprehensible appreciation for The Beach Boys, provides some of the best moments in the film.
From the famous “War” song to the infamous “Carter…Lee” yelling, Rush Hour is a film popular for its characters and moments of memorability. Sure, the story does fall into the archives of the buddy cop genre, and it doesn’t necessarily blow you away with its visuals or complexity, but Rush Hour instead relies upon the chemistry between its partners.
An action-comedy of the highest order that can be appreciated across cultural borders, Rush Hour is a delightful film to return to for effortless entertainment viewing, as well as a duo that have left their mark on Hollywood for a long time still to come.
Writer and Editor for the Film & TV section of Impact, Bharat is a keen previewer, reviewer and sometimes just viewer, of all things cinematic and televisual, with a particular passion for biographical pictures, adaptations and sitcoms.