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‘Hour 3’ is not much of a ‘Rush’

There’s an exciting little movie trapped inside the bloat of frenetic action sequel “Rush Hour 3.” By Alonso Duralde

In “Rush Hour 3,” the latest installment in the popular action-comedy franchise, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker return as mismatched cops who find themselves…

Honestly, do you really care? Does it matter in the slightest that Chan’s stoic Chief Inspector Lee and Tucker’s chattering Detective James Carter are out to bust the Chinese Triads and save the life of the ambassador’s young daughter? The movie really boils down to assassination attempt, car chase, another assassination attempt, car bombing, knife fight, Paris taxi chase, nightclub shootout, another Paris taxi chase, fight on the Eiffel Tower, and so on, and so forth, and so what.

While it’s easy to pooh-pooh as soulless and well-oiled a machine as “Rush Hour 3,” this isn’t a movie that can be completely dismissed. Director Brett Ratner may represent everything that’s wrong with movies today, but he does bring a certain junky pop exhilaration to the proceedings, making things whip by so breezily that it’s easy to ignore the gaping plot holes, the easily predictable twists, and the necessary suspensions of disbelief that are gargantuan even by action-movie standards.

There’s a fun little movie gasping to get past Ratner’s overblown style, his seeming contempt for women, and his cutesy portrayal of people of color. And he’s certainly loaded his supporting cast with capable actors; it should be a movie law that if you’re going to put great performers like Max Von Sydow, Philip Baker Hall and Judith Ivey in your brainless summer popcorn movie, you also have to underwrite a well-written, well-directed film for that same cast. (Roman Polanski, apparently a pal of Ratner’s, turns up here as well, and it’s the most egregiously wasteful use of a world-class actor-director since Orson Welles voiced an evil planet in the original animated “Transformers” movie.)

Not helping matters at all are Chan and Tucker; we’re supposed to buy them as a new-millennial, multi-ethnic Hope and Crosby, but the two spend so much time flailing and screaming that they’re more reminiscent of the unholy pairing of Mickey Rooney and Buddy Hackett in the famously dreadful “Everything’s Ducky” (1961).

Tucker is the kind of performer one finds either hilarious or grating; put this reviewer in the latter category. And while Chan in his prime was one of the cinema’s greatest stars — a one-of-a-kind combination of Harold Lloyd, Fred Astaire and Bruce Lee — it would appear that no one knows what to do with him now that he’s gotten too old to do his own stunts. Astaire had a wit and charm that saw him through his post-dancing performances, but Chan can’t pull that off — in English, anyway. I suspect that if he were to decide to make comedies in Cantonese, he’d come off far, far better than he does in “Rush Hour 3.”

Screenwriter Todd Alcott recently blogged that Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni’s death was really the result of his having watched “I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry,” while “Transformers” did in Ingmar Bergman. “Rush Hour 3” isn’t quite painful enough to kill off a film legend, but I suspect it would give Jean-Luc Godard a sharp pain in his side, at the very least.

Alonso Duralde is the author of “101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men.”