Rush Hour 2 is a movie sequel that comes with a preemptive seal of approval by virtue of Jackie Chan's dedication to pushing his martial arts skills to the limits of acrobatic extremes. Add to this Chan's proven screen chemistry with the infectious high-pitched comic improv abilities of Chris Tucker (Money Talks), and what follows is a stream of highly enjoyable, physically demanding set pieces punctuated by constant comic riffing.
The world could probably be broken up into two kinds of people: Jackie Chan fans and non-Jackie Chan fans. Considering that he was named the world's most popular movie star by Time magazine, that doesn't leave much room for the detractors.
Chris Tucker has been ducking Hollywood offers from people like Oliver Stone while waiting for a second shot with the big little master from Honk Kong, and it's a boon for both actors. Tucker, who comes off like a black Vince Vaughn with an ear-perking voice borrowed from Michael Jackson, has an uncontrollable and unpredictable zeal, a spontaneity that puts Will Smith to shame and a reflex as an entertainer that's free of Chris Rock's trademark attitude. There's an original and innocent flair to Tucker's phrasing that rotates against his signature squealing vocal delivery. Together, Chan and Tucker deliver a broad range of physical and comedic ideas that pop out of the air like fireworks.
Rush Hour's initial director Brett Ratner returns to helm Rush Hour 2 as a kind of call and response to the first film. This time the movie opens with Lee and Carter visiting Lee's hometown of Hong Kong for a vacation that immediately turns into an investigation when a bomb kills two Customs agents at the U.S. Embassy there. All clues point to Triad gang leader Ricky Tan (John Lone), sending Lee and Carter on a chase that takes them up high bamboo scaffolding, inside a dangerous Mafia karaoke bar, and into a jaw-dropping massage parlor called "Heaven on Earth." There are many more hand-to-hand combat scenes than in the original Rush Hour with both Chan and Tucker rolling, diving and punching, as well as more cliff-hanging scenes of our heroes hanging by their fingernails.
Zhang Ziyi (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) makes an indelible impression as a high-kicking henchwoman to Ricky Tan's gang of money counterfeiters. Both detective Lee and Carter confuse their job responsibilities with romance when undercover CIA agent Isabella Molina (Roselyn Sanchez) brings her own version of eye candy to the investigation. Surprise cameos by Don Cheadle (Traffic), as a Chinese speaking Kung Fu expert, and Jeremy Piven (Very Bad Things), as a Versace sales queen, punctuate the film's final trajectory from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. This is one summer sequel that's good to have around.