Let’s see if the third outing is a success.
Rush Hour 3 takes place years after the events of Rush Hour 2. However, our characters haven’t changed much at all, so things can basically get right to the point.
This time around, Lee and Carter are pursuing information about the Triad gang after Ambassador Han is almost assassinated. In order to get information about the massive Chinese criminal syndicate we go to… Paris? We also follow… a Japanese criminal? Huh?
The need to become more international is something that hurt the pacing in the second entry, but here it is just weird. Our primary antagonist Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada) is also Lee’s adopted brother, for reasons, I guess. Don’t worry though, Kenji is only present for a few minutes until the ending where he is made the primary boss fight.
The crux of the narrative is following Genevieve (Noemie Lenoir), a French performer who knows where the secret list is. We get ample servings of fights and intrigue as the film limps its way along to the conclusion, which sadly isn’t as engaging a set piece as the other entries.
As with most action series, the third is certainly the low point. Films tend to operate on a downward arc once serialized. (Remember, this is before we had multiverse franchises). Mix in the characters of this series who are underdeveloped (as most action heroes are) and we just don’t have a lot of places to go. However, why did this one seem so much worse?
Part of the reason I think this film fails is that it seems like the actual sequel to the first two. The best part of the first two entries is that you can watch them back-to-back and get a complete story. Here, we have to reintroduce characters (who are mad at each other for dumb reasons) and create new drama. Further, this film does what almost every sequel does in that it over-adds what audiences liked. People liked Asian culture? Let’s throw in more and more without any real grounding or background. People liked the racial and cultural humor? Let’s add more, and this is one area where they screwed up.
The racial humor in the first two entries work better as anytime African American or Chinese culture is lampooned one of our heroes is able to clap back. Here, we get jokes about French (and Asians in general) that aren’t given their own voice. The humor here feels like they were going after low hanging fruit more than trying to slip in fun moments.
There are successful moments here though. Jackie Chan riding a swing while singing onto stage during a Bonnie and Clyde burlesque is awesome. The problem is that these moments are becoming fewer and farther apart.
Surprisingly, the film lacks good fights. We’re back to guns primarily, which leaves Chan in the background for a lot of it. Even the final set piece ends up being more of a balancing act than a fight. Sure, we get cool moments, but they are too few.
At this point, it seems like the series is just going through the motions. With a possible fourth on the way I don’t think we should be optimistic. The first two are good fun. The third can ultimately be skipped. Seriously, just stream the outtakes as they’re the best part.
There are other (larger) issues to discuss with this film. Having Roman Polanski cameo as a French officer who sexually assaults our heroes (he gives them a cavity search) is just dumb. Why in the world including him was greenlit is beyond me. Further, this is the first time the racial humor crossed into what I would call mean-spirited, which is too bad. In the end though, this rushed and soulless production isn’t worth our time or attention. I imagine the only reason this one sells is that it was cheaper to buy the trilogy than the first two separate.