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Somewhere in Hollywood, a group of executives and Brett Ratner decided that Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker should make a movie together. The results were... actually quite good. The series centers on a pair of police detectives - one a Chinese police inspector, the other an LAPD detective - as they go on a series of misadventures often involving corrupt crime figures. The film incorporates elements of martial arts, and the buddy cop sub-genre.
Rush Hour (1998)
Hong Kong, the last night of British rulership. Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie), close friend to Consul Han, manages to prevent precious pieces of China's history being smuggled out of the country. Two months later, when Consul Han is living in Los Angeles with his family, Crime Lord Juntao takes revenge on him by abducting his young daughter Soo Yung. Han does not trust the FBI to do a good job and has Lee flown in from Hong Kong to assist them.
Because they don't want a foreign officer on their case, the FBI requests help from LAPD to "babysit" Lee - who gladly use the opportunity to get rid of Detective James Carter (Chris), a big-mouthed work-alone cop who just can't be cool enough. His assignment is to keep Lee as far away from trouble as possible. But Carter and Lee don't like being put aside in that way and start working the case on their own.
The first movie was a major success and became the 7th top grossing film of 1998, with a gross of over $140 million dollars at the U.S. box office. The combination of motor-mouthed Tucker with Chan's gravity defying stunts proved to be a winning combination, in no small part due to Chan's movies being mostly comedies anyway.
Rush Hour 2 (2001)
Lee and Carter are back! This time they're together in Hong Kong. Carter wants a relaxing vacation but Lee just wants to do police work. At a night club, Lee spots an evil agent named Ricky Tan, who runs an gang of counterfeiters, and his partner is a woman who delivers packages containing bombs. Lee and Carter follow these two aboard a boat where their attempted bust really backfires.
But following some hunches Lee and Carter fly back to Los Angeles where they meet a woman in the Secret Service who directs them on how to find the counterfeiters. Like the first movie, she was trying to get them out of her way but Lee and Carter again find the right chain of evidence that takes them to Las Vegas and the perfect money-laundering location.
Rush Hour 3 (2007)
After an attempted assassination on Ambassador Han, Inspector Lee and Detective Carter are back in action as they head to Paris to protect a French woman with knowledge of the Triads' secret leaders. Lee also holds secret meetings with a United Nations authority, but his personal struggles with a Chinese criminal mastermind named Kenji, which reveals that it's Lee's long-lost...brother.
But their race will take them across the city, from the depths of the Paris underground to the breathtaking heights of the Eiffel Tower, as they fight to outrun the world's most deadly criminals and save the day. Of the three, this is the least well-received.
The film series contains examples of:
- All Asians Are Alike: In Part Two, after hitting Lee by mistake in the massage parlor fight, Carter says "All y'all look alike!."
- Possibly parodied, as Carter and Lee were the only ones in towels of a different color than everybody else.
- Arson, Murder, and Lifesaving: The chief invokes this trope to make it seem like he's impressed with Tucker. He's actually quite angry, but is lying to get Tucker to accept a humiliating assignment as a supposed reward.
- Artifact Title: There's only one scene in the first movie where the title makes sense. The title is completely ignored in the sequels.
- Ass Shove: Done to the duo by Roman Polanski.
- Bad Guy Bar: The Triad's bar in Part Two.
- Bash Brothers: Lee and Carter start to demonstrate this in the second movie, where Carter's hand-to-hand skills have notably jumped up about 10 grades.
- Bilingual Backfire: Jackie Chan pretends not to understand English. Allegedly inspired by the Real Life first meeting between Chan and Tucker.
- His English is much better now, first movie onwards.
- Also in the second movie, Carter tries to tell a Chinese taxi driver to follow Ricky Tan's car, but the driver keeps responding in Chinese. This annoys Carter to the point that he hands the driver some cash and asks "You understand that?" The driver looks at the money, then says in English "Now you're speaking my language."
- From the same film, Zhang Ziyi spoke zero English, receiving all her instructions from either Jackie or Ratner (who would mime out what he wanted her to do). Rosalyn Sanchez taught her the only two English lines she speaks in the film — "Some apple?" and "Out!"
- Bilingual Bonus: Several. For example, the name "Hu Li" translates to "fox".
- Black Comedy Rape: The main characters get this during the third movie, by Roman Polanski, no less.
- Blond Guys Are Evil: Sang in the first movie.
- Brick Joke / Call Back: In the first movie Lee and Carter are in Carter's car and Lee changes the radio station prompting Carter to yell "Never touch a black man's radio!". In the second movie the scene plays out again but with the roles reversed ("Never touch a Chinese man's CD!").
- Also, the line "Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?!", this time said by Lee to Carter.
- In Part Three, Carter successfully orders a gefilte fish on their flight. In the outtakes from the second film, he tried repeatedly to do the same thing, but Chris Tucker could never pronounce it right.
- Buddy Cop Show: See Odd Couple.
- The Cameo: Jeremy Piven and Don Cheadle (who took it under the condition he would get a brief sparring moment with Chan) in Part Two, and Roman Polanski in Part Three.
- Camp Gay: The store attendant in the sequel, played by Jeremy Piven. Should have been offensive. Instead, it managed to be hilarious. Even more so in the Hilarious Outtakes where he goes off on a tangent about doing naughty things to Jackie Chan. Jackie's limited English didn't allow him to realize the inappropriate comments being made and Chris dissolved into laughter.
- Ceiling Cling: Parodied in the second film.
- Chekhov's Gun: Literally. Carter carries a second gun in the first film that's first played for laughs after he is disarmed; pretty much saves his life at the end.
- Chekhov's Skill: Carter requests that Lee teach him the gun disarming skill Lee used on him earlier. Carter uses it later on a mook and even lampshades it "Didn't know I could do that, did you?"
- Cowboy Cop: Both Carter AND Lee. Especially Carter; he causes massive property damage, uses highly questionable investigation techniques, and doesn't bother hiding the fact he smokes weed.
- Crowd Hockey: The detonator in Rush Hour 2.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Carter is generally loud, rude, and almost gleefully engages in Uncle Tomfoolery but proves to be a competent investigator and insanely fast on the draw in the first movie and defeats two accomplished martial artists who gave Lee trouble in 2 and 3.
- Dark Action Girl: Hu Li in Rush Hour 2
- Did Not Do the Research: The plastic explosive known as C-4 is highly stable and resistant to things like fire and gunshots, and it's also known for making a pretty powerful, forceful (not fiery) explosion when detonated. Carter shoots a trunk full of C-4 in the first film and triggers a small, standard Hollywood pyrotechnic show, indicating that the people behind the movie knew none of the aforementioned facts.
- Or just followed the Rule of Cool.
- Disney Villain Death: Happens to all three of the main villains in the series, though usually with a bit more proof they didn't survive the impact than at Disney. Lampshaded during the blooper reel of Rush Hour 2.
Chris Tucker: "Damn! He ain't gonna be in Rush Hour 3!"
- The Dragon: Sang (Ken Leung) in the first movie, Hu Li (Zhang Ziyi) in the second. Hu Li also doubles as the Dragon Lady.
- Dropped a Bridge on Him: Carter's father, a legendary policeman by his son's retelling.
Carter: "My daddy was a legend! My daddy was killed during a routine traffic stop in broad daylight by some punk who didn't want no ticket!"
- Eagle Land: Not so much in the first two movies, but in Rush Hour 3 Carter gets pretty obnoxiously Flavor 2; accusing all Iraqis of being terrorists and forcing a Frenchman to sing the US anthem at gunpoint.
- Eagleland Osmosis: The French taxi driver in the third film thinks all Americans are violent action movie characters.
- Eiffel Tower Effect: The setting for the climatic battle at the end of the third film.
- Evil Brit: Thomas Griffin, aka Juntao in the first movie.
- Flanderization: James Carter went from being a loudmouthed and self centered but legitimately competent detective in the first movie to being a Ted Baxter that's unable to take anything seriously in the second. The third film kind of mixes the two. And that's not even getting into the Uncle Tomfoolery.
- He still is actually a competent cop. In the second movie he correctly guesses that the owner of the casino was in league with Ricky Tan ("follow the rich white man") and even manages to last in a fight against Hu-Li. In movie 3 he also is able to find the location of a club (if not by accident) that a mook only gives a vague address of, defeats several Triad bosses (on his own) and rescues Soo-Yung (again). It should also be noted that his antics actually get him demoted to traffic duty by number 3.
- In the first film, the very first thing we see him doing is mess up the arrest of an arms dealer, blowing up half a city block and getting two officers shot in the process. If anything he gets more competent as the films go on, not less, as he learns to work with a partner and exercise some degree of self-control.
- Follow That Car!: Seen in "Rush Hour 2", when Carter orders a taxi driver to follow a car. The driver doesn't move and keeps speaking Chinese to him. After a few back-and-forth exchanges, Carter slips him some money and the driver says, in English, "Now you're speaking my language." and steps on the gas.
- The Bilingual Bonus here is that the Chinese the driver is speaking translates to "Money first."
- French Jerk: The officer played by Roman Polanski.
- Freudian Slip: Carter, when discussing the funny money with Isabella, who's in only her underwear and bathrobe:
Isabella: Carter, this is your city, right?
- Gay Moment: Lee gratefully kisses Carter's cheeks a few times after he's rescued by Carter's quick thinking at the end of the first film. Carter, having just had Lee collide with his crotch, just wanted Lee off him ASAP. "What the hell you doin'?" "I was just... being polite." "Well, next time, be polite to my nuts!"
- And then, of course, there was the hysterical Camp Gay store attendant in Rush Hour 2.
Carter: You see that?!
- Glove Snap: Done by French airport security in Rush Hour 3.
- Does the fact that the officer is played by Roman Polanski make it more disturbing or funnier?
- Heterosexual Life Partners: Bordering on Ho Yay.
- Hey, It's That Guy!: Kenji is played by Hiroyuki Sanada, perhaps best known for his role as Ryuji Takayama in the Ring movies. He also appeared in Sunshine as Captain Kaneda.
- Hilarious Outtakes: "Damn, he ain't gonna be in Rush Hour 3."
- Improvised Zipline: Used to escape an explosion in the second movie.
- Ironic Echo: When Carter told Sang and his goons in the Foo Chow restaurant to "put their guns down and fight like a man." Which Sang would later tell Carter the same line in the expo facing each other.
- Also, when the same aforementioned guy is about to kill Carter in said restaurant, he throws a handkerchief to him and says: "Wipe yourself off, you're bleeding." Later, after killing the man in a shootout at the expo, Carter tosses a handkerchief on him and says: "Wipe yourself off, you dead."
- Jerkass: The FBI agents in the first movie.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Carter.
- MacGuffin Melee: The Red Dragon Casino fight, involving a bomb detonator.
- Misfit Mobilization Moment
- Mistaken for Gay: Carter and Lee are assumed to be a couple by a Camp Gay store attendant in the second movie, who "loves it when couples match."
- Mistaken for Racist / N-Word Privileges: Happens in the first movie when the two go to a pool hall. Carter, who's known by the patrons, greets them by saying "What's up, ma n***a?" While Carter goes into a back room to interrogate a source, Lee tries to start a friendly chat with the bartender using the same line. Since this is a Jackie Chan movie, Fighting Ensues.
- Mock Millionaire: In the second movie, Carter tries to impress a beautiful girl at a yacht party by pretending to be the yacht's owner. Later, he spends (counterfeit) money like a madman at the Red Dragon casino to distract the other gamblers.
- Monumental Battle: The fight on the Eiffel Tower at the end of the third film.
- My Dad Can Beat Up Your Dad: In the first movie, Lee and Carter get into an argument about their deceased fathers, culminating in this:
Carter: Your daddy was a a cop?
- My Hovercraft Is Full of Eels: Thanks to his poor poor Cantonese, Carter invited two girls to get naked and sacrifice a small goat instead of having a drink. He also told the entire triad bar to take out their Samurai swords and shave his butt. It's heavily implied that he bought the wrong Chinese-To-English translation book before their trip to Hong Kong.
- Naked People Are Funny: Demonstrated in Rush Hour 2 when Carter and Lee are stripped of their clothes and forced to run back to the police station with only a trash can lid and newspaper as their coverings.
- Noodle Incident: Isabella, the FBI agent from part 2, is mentioned in 3. Though it seem she had a falling out with the two and the most we hear on the reason is that Carter accidentally shot her. And apparently left her temporarily brain dead. Ouch.
- Odd Couple: Pretty much the main reason why these movies exist.
- One-Scene Wonder: The Camp Gay store attendant from Rush Hour 2.
- Played by Jeremy Piven.
- Pronoun Trouble / Who's on First?: Two characters named Yu and Mi in the third movie confuse the other characters and the audience.
- Lee and Carter have one of these in the second movie
Carter: Who died?
- Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: In the first movie:
Carter: Do you! Understand! The words! That are coming out of my mouth?!
- Red Oni, Blue Oni: Carter and Lee.
- Running Gag: An actual running gag shows up in the outtakes, when Chris Tucker keeps forgetting to call Jackie Chan by his character's name.
- Sequel Goes Foreign: The second movie is set in Hong Kong and the third movie went to Paris.
- She Is All Grown Up: Carter has this reaction In Rush Hour 3 after seeing Soo Yung for the first time in nine years. Surprisingly, he doesn't hit on her.
- In fact he acts as something of a Papa Wolf towards her.
- Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Trailer: For obvious reasons, Roman Polanski's role in part three as a French customs agent was kept pretty quiet.
- Soul Brotha: Carter.
- Spiritual Successor: To the film Drive, starring Mark Dacascos, a woefully underrated (and relatively unknown) action film from The Nineties. Brett Ratner even admitted that the only reason Rush Hour got made without legal complications is that almost no one knows it exists. Fans of Rush Hour and action films in general should definitely check it out (but only the Director's Cut. Long story.)
- Springtime for Hitler: Jackie Chan has gone on record that he didn't think Rush Hour would be as successful as it became. He did the film to test the American market.
- He also admitted to not understanding a good portion of the jokes in the films.
- Stab the Salad: Before fighting Carter towards the end of the second movie, Hu Li grabs a chopstick, holding it menacingly, only to use it to tie her hair back.
- Taught by Television: The taxi driver in the third movie, during the first chase scene.
- Tempting Fate: In the first film, Lee threatens that nothing better happen to all the priceless Chinese art and artifacts. Carter reassures him: "Don't worry, ain't nothin' gonna happen to any of this stuff." Only a couple minutes later, a huge gunfight erupts in the room, which destroys many of the items.
- Title Drop: First movie only (and really, it's the only one where the title makes sense; what does Rush Hour have to do with the crimes taking place in Hong Kong or Paris?).
[Sang stops Soo Yung's car, dressed as a cop]
- To be fair, during the last hour of the sequels, Lee and Carter are usually rushing to get somewhere to stop someone dangerous, or rescue someone, so the title Rush Hour does kind of make sense. But that is stretching it.
- Too Dumb to Live: When Reign betrayed Tan and took the plates, he shows him he has a gun as a warning. But does he take the gun out, point it at Tan and keep his distance? No, he keeps it under his pants, walks right up to Tan where he could've easily taken his gun from him. Or stab him in the gut (which he does).
- Trademark Favorite Food: In the first movie, Lee orders Chinese food from a roadside merchant for the both of them, causing Carter to complain about the grease. The merchant's reply? "Chinese food. No soul food here."
- Truth in Television: The taxi driver in 3 isn't actually all that far off from what some foreigners think of Americans.
- T-Word Euphemism: Played with in Rush Hour 3. Carter and Lee are interrogating a man who speaks only French, so they enlist a nun, who's fluent in French, to translate. So, naturally, when she translates the prisoner's taunts, she summarizes with, "And he called you the N-word." For the rest of the scene, Carter and Lee ask her to translate things like, "Tell this piece of S-word that I'll kick his A-word," complete with brief stops to determine the spelling of some of the words.
- Uncle Tomfoolery: Carter, especially in the later movies.
- What Could Have Been: Jean Claude Van Damme was offered the role of the villain in part three. Imagine seeing him and Jackie Chan fight...
- Eddie Murphy was also originally supposed to play as Carter, but turned the role down to work on another project.
- Who's on First?: In Rush Hour 3, this was done in a dojo when Carter was speaking with Master Yu and Sifu Mi.
Carter: What's your name?
- Rush Hour 2 did it in the opposite direction, when discussing Chris Tucker's character's apparent death.
Inspector Lee: Not Yu, YOU!
- Wok Fu: There's a fight followed by a chase through a Chinese restaurant.
- Wouldn't Hit a Woman: Subverted through the second movie, as Carter tries to take on Hu Li, only to be KO-ed in each encounter. In their final fight, Carter says:
Carter: I'm gonna pretend you a man. A very beautiful man with a great body that I'd like to take to the movies.