The action-packed martial arts comedy series involving two very different international policemen who collide with each other on calamitous criminal investigations pulled in a combined theatrical box-office gross of nearly a billion dollars worldwide.
It's strange to watch a film franchise after the rise and fall in popularity of the filmmakers and the lead stars. Such is the case with the amiable and entertaining 'Rush Hour Trilogy.' When things all started in 1998, Jackie Chan was at the top of his international game, Chris Tucker was a rising character actor about to leap to big-time leading man status, and Brett Ratner was an up and coming director about to make his first big hit film. By 2007 all of those prospects had dwindled and faded.
When the daughter of a Chinese Consul member is kidnapped in the United States. Two of the best cops in the world are going to take the case - except they hate each other! Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) and Detective Carter (Chris Tucker) are going to have to set aside their considerable differences if they hope to save the girl in time - and maybe spark a lasting friendship in the process. 3.5/5
Rush Hour 2
After saving the day, it's time for a well-earned vacation for Inspector Lee and Detective Carter. With Carter in Hong Kong, it's supposed to be all fun and games, but when the partners in crime fighting get caught up in an international counterfeit scheme in involving the L.A. crime boss Reign (Alan King) and the disgraced former Hong Kong cop Ricky Tan (John Lone). Vacations are supposed to be fun and relaxing, but this trip could be more than Lee and Carter can handle.
Rush Hour 3
After the Chinese Ambassador was nearly assassinated by the Triads, Lee and Carter must travel to Paris to head up the investigation by locating a mysterious woman who seems to know all of the Triad's activities. When they cross paths with a man known as Reynard (Max von Sydow), they soon learn that master criminal Kenji (Hiroyuki Sanada) has a part to play in this dastardly plot. It's an out and out invasion of action and hilarity as Lee and Carter solve the case. Roman Polanski stops by to say "hi" with a rubber glove.
When 'Rush Hour' arrived on the scene, it felt fresh, new and fun. It was a great way for mass American audiences to get to know the amazing cinematic presence of Jackie Chan. While many people knew who he was, most probably hadn't seen one of his films - let along seen one in the theater. 'Rush Hour' changed that in a big way while also helping propel funny man and talented character actor Chris Tucker onto the front stage. Tucker was already well known, but he was about to get a big leg up in his career. At the same time, aspiring filmmaker Brett Ratner managed to prove he was a deft hand with the buddy cop action comedy genre.
A lot changed between 1998 and 2007. Jackie Chan's movies had become more and more kid friendly and redundant. Chris Tucker would complete 'Rush Hour 3' and then disappear entirely for five years until 2012's 'Silver Linings Playbook.' Brett Ratner would hit his career blockbuster highpoint with 'X-Men: The Last Stand,' and then find the brick wall with 'Rush Hour 3' and refocus his attentions as a producer, rather than a big budget spectacle director.
Perhaps it was too much too soon, or a simple case of not knowing when to quit, but the 'Rush Hour' franchise took a lot of goodwill and fun, built it up with its second film, and then tore the entire building apart by the end of the third film. I remember going to the first 'Rush Hour' in high school with a group of friends. We had a blast. We loved the comedy, the action, the energy - all of it was a great big breath of fun air at the movies. 'Rush Hour 2' proved you could do the same gags twice, just change locations to make Chris Tucker the fish-out-of-water, rinse, wash repeat and keep on laughing. 'Rush Hour 3' on the other hand, is an irritating dud. It's difficult to pinpoint where and how this one goes wrong for me. At equal times Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker's banter is the same old funny stuff while also being irritating and in many sequences, completely insulting and uncomfortable. Brett Ratner's direction and comedic timing are equally energetic and creative while many sequences lazy lasy and ill-timed to the point of boredom. Then there is the awkward cavity search sequence with Roman Polanski...yeah, let's not go there.
I don't believe in the perfect trilogy. Just about every third entry in a franchise ends up being something of an unfortunate followup to a better second entry. Some franchises are able to weather the storm and find a way to retool and make the rest of the series worth continuing on with. 'Rush Hour 3' wasn't a balloon with the air let out, it was popped flat. That doesn't mean the other two films aren't enjoyable. They're still a great time and wildly entertaining. So on that end, 'Rush Hour Trilogy' is worth the effort if only because it's the only way you can currently enjoy 'Rush Hour 2' on Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Rush Hour Trilogy' arrives on Blu-ray courtesy of Warner Bros. as a five-disc set. The three films are given their own BD50 disc, 'Rush Hour 3' bonus features come on a BD25 disc, while additional bonus features are on another BD25 disc. Housed in a 5-Disc Blu-ray case with identical slip case featuring custom artwork from Mondo, each disc opens to their respective main menus with traditional navigation options. The 'Rush Hour' Blu-ray and the two discs making up 'Rush Hour 3' are the exact same discs that were released previously. The only new disc is the one authored for 'Rush Hour 2' and the Special Features Disc.
With an aged VC-1 2.40:1 1080p transfer, 'Rush Hour' looks admittedly pretty decent for an early generation Blu-ray release. Obviously, the film would look arguably better with an AVC remastering, but as it stands this is pretty good. Film grain is visible but not overly apparent or noisy. Detail levels are decent but not overly impressive for a film of this vintage. Colors are strong with plenty of bright primary pop and presence. Black levels are pretty strong, but even then there isn't much sense of depth, it's a relatively flat affair. 3.5/5
RUSH HOUR 2
'Rush Hour 2' proves to be the more interesting release. Since this film was the last one to arrive on Blu-ray, it was given something resembling a little more robust image appearance with this AVC encoded 2.40:1 transfer. As the new release of the three films, it's easily the best looking one, but this is still a very aged looking master. Details are strong, but not as strong as something with a more recent scan like Brett Ratner's own 'After the Sunset.' Colors are robust here with a nice life-like color pallet with plenty of primary presence and natural skin tones. The image is in great shape, no damage to speak of. Black levels are a bit stronger here allowing for some more depth to the image.
RUSH HOUR 3
And we're back to the dated 2.40:1 VC-1 1080p image transfer of 'Rush Hour 3' now, as the oldest release of the bunch, it looks like a master minted in 2007. It was good back then, but considering how often and frequently films are dipped, double dipped, and triple dipped, this is a film that really needs a remastering. Details are decent, but nowhere near as sharp as they could be for a film that is less than ten years old. Colors are bright and lively allowing for a robust presentation that is pretty wonderful. Black levels are about the same as they are for 'Rush Hour,' deep, but there is a lack of depth to the image that is a bit frustrating.
With an English DTS-HD MA 7.1 audio mix, 'Rush Hour' sounds pretty darn amazing on disc. Dialogue is crisp, clear, and keeps to the front/center channels allowing the surrounds to pick up all of the action-packed heavy lifting. Even during the quieter moments of the film, there is a strong sense of imaging and direction as there is plenty of hustle and bustle that keeps the channels engaged. The great Lalo Schifrin score comes through with a rich presence. All around a fantastic audio mix that fits the nature of the film nicely.
RUSH HOUR 2
Frustratingly, 'Rush Hour 2' is sloughed off with an English DTS-HD 5.1 mix. Normally, in an everyday situation, this track wouldn't be much to complain about. It's got good intelligible dialogue, a nice sense of imaging, and plenty of dimension to the mix without any distortion or age issues. That said, it's a notable step down from the 7.1 mixes that were given to its sequel siblings. As you watch one film after the other, you can sense the dip in quality. This isn't a terrible audio track by any stretch, it's just a step down with its presentation.
RUSH HOUR 3
Much like the first film, 'Rush Hour 3' gets to enjoy a solid DTS-HD 7.1 mix. Action scenes really come to life here allowing for some incredible imaging presence. Dialogue comes through clean and clear without any issues. The Schifrin score sounds amazing and the sound effects have plenty of atmosphere and presence to them. The surround channels are constantly engaged and keep the film sounding great. Quieter scenes have an odd way of sounding flat and unnatural at times, almost as if everything in the scene was processed and looped in post-production later, but thankfully those scenes are few and far between. All around excellent, even for a dated release.
RUSH HOUR Bonus Features:
Audio Commentary: Director Brett Ratner goes solo for this commentary track. I may not be the filmmaker's biggest fan, but I appreciate his approach and how he goes about setting up an action scene.
Composer's Audio Commentary: This is a bit of a different sort of commentary, but any time you can have Lalo sit down and talk about his work is a good day in my book.
A Piece of the Action: (SD 40:53) This is a pretty solid production documentary that showcases Ratner, the cast, and crew in action. There's a lot of great material here and makes for an entertaining watch on its own.
Whatever Happened to Mason Reese: (SD 13:12) Brett Ratner's short film - also includes an optional audio commentary.
Deleted Scenes: (SD 3:03)
Theatrical Trailer: (SD 2:29)
"Nuttin but Love" Music Video: (SD 4:40)
"How Deep is Your Love" Music Video: (SD 4:29)
RUSH HOUR 2 Bonus Features:
Audio Commentary: Director Brett Ratner and Screenwriter Jeff Nathanson have a good commentary track talking about how they formulated the ideas for this sequel and trying to keep the material fresh without recycling all the old gags again.
Focal Points: (SD 30:22) A collection of great little short-form making of features. They're short, but they offer up some great information and some bits here and there.
Deleted Scenes: (SD 8:04) Optional Director commentary is included.
Out Takes: (SD 5:07)
Vintage Featurettes: (SD 28:49) Another great collection of behind the scenes features talking about various action sequences, fights, production design, and the visual effects that went into the film.
Teaser Trailer: (SD 1:07)
Teaser Trailer 2: (SD 1:13)
Theatrical Trailer: (SD 2:34)
RUSH HOUR 3 Bonus Features Disc One:
Audio Commentary - Can be viewed as an Enhanced Commentary: Brett Ratner and writer Jeff Nathanson return for a pretty great little audio commentary even if the final film isn't that great.
Theatrical Trailer: (HD 2:22)
RUSH HOUR 3 Bonus Features Disc Two:
Outtakes: (HD 2:33)
Deleted/Alternate Scenes: (HD 7:12)
Making Rush Hour 3: (HD 1:28) Your tried and true EPK styled bonus features that offer up a lot of interesting material and does go through a lot of the ins and outs of the film, some of the action sequences, the genesis of the project and so forth.
Visual Effects Reel: (HD 2:03)
"Le Rush Hour Trois" Production Diary: (HD 1:05:05) Your typical video camera production diary material showcasing all of the great locations and some fun behind the scenes material.
'Rush Hour Trilogy' is a succinct little package showcasing the rise and fall of a franchise. While the films may not be masterpieces by any stretch, they do provide some solid entertainment value. But what to make of Warner Bros. beautiful trilogy set with custom artwork from Mondo? It's certainly a beautiful package, but the discs inside could leave some fans out in the cold. Not only are the first and third films the same discs as were issued previously, but 'Rush Hour 2' comes with a dated master and a lower quality audio track compared to its siblings. The only new bonus feature here is a 20 minute "remember when" featurette that doesn't involve Chris Tucker - so even that feels incomplete. Bottom line, if you already own 'Rush Hour' and 'Rush Hour 3' and don't mind waiting for Warner to -possibly - eventually issue 'Rush Hour 2' on its own, keep waiting. If you don't own any of the films already, this is a nice little Collector's package, but it's really only for the fans.