New on Blu-ray: Rush Hour (1998)

Billed as “the fastest hands in the East meets the biggest mouth in the West”, I don’t think anyone expected Brett Ratner’s 1998 action comedy “Rush Hour” to do as well as it did (the film made $244 million worldwide from a $33 million dollar budget). The film made Jackie Chan a bankable action star in the West (as long as you teamed him up with a Western co-star, natch) and cemented Chris Tucker’s star status. The franchise would go on to produce two successful sequels (the franchise reached its height with “Rush Hour 2″ two years later, which went on to make $347 million worldwide), but December 7, 2010 will be the first time the first “Rush Hour” becomes available on Blu-ray from New Line Home Video.

“Ain’t never gonna have no partner,” LAPD Det. James Carter insists. He gets a partner. And since that partner is played by dynamic martial arts legend Jackie Chan and motor-mouthed Carter is played by wisecracking Chris Tucker, Rush Hour zooms along with gleeful chemistry under the dynamic directorial hand of Brett Ratner. The case: rescue the kidnapped daughter of a visiting Hong Kong official. The result: amazing stunts (Chan does his own) and verbal wit (well, Tucker does his own, too!) that delivered a kick to the buddy-cop genre — and gave Chan his long-awaited, mainstream-U.S. breakthrough.

Movie Review:

Chris Tucker acts like a jackass while Jackie Chan kicks ass. That pretty much boils down the basic charm of the “Rush Hour” movies as I see it. I have to admit, when I first saw the film all those years ago, I didn’t really think too much of it. Tucker’s comedy, in particular, takes a lot of getting used to. I was more familiar with Chan from his Hong Kong days, but partnering him up with a wiseass like Tucker just seemed … wrong somehow. Since then, though, I’ve come to appreciate the franchise for what it is: a goofy buddy cop movie with more comedy than your average entry, with Chan supplying plenty of the action.

The first “Rush Hour” is where the two main leads meet for the first time. Predictably, cultures clash, though not so much because Chan is playing Lee, a Chinese cop in Los Angeles who everyone wants out of the way, more so because Tucker’s Carter is just a really, really annoying guy with a big mouth who doesn’t think very highly of his Eastern colleague and has no ability to keep his opinions to himself. Of course, after a lot of comedic headbutting, the two realize they must join forces to save a young Chinese girl kidnapped by bad guys intent on forcing her diplomatic father to do their evil deeds.

“Rush Hour” features notable guest spots by Tom Wilkinson (“Batman Begins”) as a bent bureaucrat and the late Chris Penn in a funny cameo as an arms dealer, along with Elizabeth Peña, who I’ve had a crush on since forever, and who has never looked better as Carter’s fellow L.A. cop. The bad guys who Carter and Lee face off against aren’t too memorable, but then again, they’re mostly a McGuffin to get our heroes together for some bit of Tomfoolery. Plus, they’re there to supply the asses to be kicked, so I suppose they did their jobs well enough.

The “Rush Hour” franchise really got the balance of comedy and action just right, and I think that’s owed to the chemistry between Tucker and Chan. The two would go on to gel like brothers from another mother in the sequels, but as the saying goes, you never forget your first time.

Blu-ray Review:

Great picture and sound. No complaints here.

Special Features:

  • Audio Commentaries: You have a choice of director Brett Ratner or watch the movie with isolated score with composer Lalo Schifrin.
  • A Piece of the Action — Behind the Scenes of Rush Hour: 40 mins. The best part about this lengthy behind-the-scenes look at the making of “Rush Hour”? Seeing a pre-beard, goofy, boyish looking Brett Ratner. You might not even recognize this Brett Ratner from the current bearded one that goes around picking fights with Internet fanboys. The final 4 minutes or so also features outtakes from the movie, cause I know you Jackie Chan fans love that stuff.
  • Brett Ratner’s Short Film, “What Ever Happened to Mason Reese?”: 13 mins. Wanna see the movie that got Ratner noticed by Hollywood bigwigs like Steven Spielberg? This is it. Comes with introduction by Ratner. Eagle eye viewers will notice that one of the models hanging out with Mason Reese in his limo looks a lot like Rebecca Gayheart. Well, cause that’s her. IMDB.com says this is her film debut.
  • 2 Music Videos: Full-length music videos for Dru Hill’s “How Deep is Your Love?” and Heavy D & the Boyz’ “Nuttin’ but Love” with optional commentary by Brett Ratner.
  • Deleted Scenes: 3:03 mins. Nothing too special, though you do get some extra time with Elizabeth Pena. Did I mention how great she is?
  • Theatrical Trailer

Buy “Rush Hour” on Blu-ray from New Line Home Video.