If there’s a role model for summer romps lacking invention, conviction, or even enough good ideas to warrant the use of celluloid or film reels, it may well be the shameless claptrap that is the third Rush Hour film. Funny thing is, though, the natural affliction of bland-ifying sequelitis and cynical, phone-it-in compromises don’t hurt the viewer as much as it should. Blame it on the desperate dog days of August, when our expectations plummet to a low and our desire to decamp in a cool, dark theater makes the going less dire than it should be. Plus, there’s something perversely comforting about big-budget Hollywood hackwork-it’s like the occasional Big Mac, savored in secret.
The usual narrative mathematics are in place, again, between the gymnastic Chinese, Chief Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan), and the wise-cracking LAPD detective, James Carter (Chris Tucker). Amid their odd couple bonding and cultural misunderstandings, much linguistic spaghetti is whipped up over the course of the film. In that regard, the movie’s most memorable moment is an absurd and mock-obscene scene in which a nun translates an interrogation with a French-speaking Chinese assassin, and expletives are flung back and forth in code. It’s not funny ha-ha, but shows at least a slight effort to get up off the couch in the course of somnolent scriptwriting.
This time around, a convoluted plot involves finding and protecting a secret list exposing the famed Chinese Triad mob maze. The trail takes them to Paris, thankfully for filmmakers eager to get outta Culver City. And what better opportunity to head to the Eiffel Tower to stage the de rigeur meandering climax (and the phrase “meandering climax” is key to the trouble at the heart of the movie).
One nagging question is raised by the movie: Why would Roman Polanski appear in a cameo as a sadistic French policeman related to his nose-slicing thug persona in Chinatown? He must have been bored and desperate, possibly in August.