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The Eiffel Tower also features in Rush Hour 3, but because this is a Jackie Chan picture, it can’t just stand there looking iconic. It has to be the site of the final action sequence, in which Chinese supercop Lee (Chan) and uniformed LAPD screw-up Carter (Chris Tucker) scamper across the trusses and take a few dramatic tumbles. The set piece doesn’t even make the Top 10 of Chan’s death-defying high-wire acts, but it’s nicely staged and edited by Brett Ratner, who also directed the two predecessors. Neither Ratner nor his stars seem to expect the latest Rush Hour to be anything more than the least of the three flicks, but it has enough hops, skips, and quirks to be modestly amusing.
The cross-cultural buddies are reintroduced in Los Angeles, where Lee is guarding a figure from the first Rush Hour, Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma), and Carter is directing traffic while miming make-out moves to the tune of Prince’s “Do Me, Baby.” As Han addresses the “World Criminal Court,” an assassin wings him, and Lee makes chase, followed by Carter. The shooter turns out to be Kenji (Sunshine’s Hiroyuki Sanada), who calls himself Lee’s brother even though he’s Japanese. (This kinship is ultimately explained, but as a plot element it still doesn’t make any sense.) Soon the action shifts to Paris, where Lee and Carter must protect another character from the original movie, Han’s now-grown-up-and-sexy daughter Soo Yung (Jingchu Zhang). They’re also searching for Genevieve (Noémie Lenoir), who supposedly possesses a list of the world’s top Chinese gangsters.
The procession of events is basically meaningless, and most of the action scenes are sluggish. Ratner and scripter Jeff Nathanson (who also wrote the second installment) attempt to compensate with purely verbal gags, such as a cross-cultural rewrite of the ancient “Who’s on First?” routine and a funny bit in which a French-speaking nun is enlisted to translate the jibes of a captured assassin. Chan and Tucker, meanwhile, seem to be working on their second careers as singers. In a nightclub scene, they croon “The Closer I Get to You” to each other. Soon, of course, gunfire ensues, but the movie’s bullets, punches, and blades are deployed without much conviction
Oddly, what really stokes Rush Hour 3 are inside jokes, cinematic homages, and tributes to la belle France. Bergman regular Max von Sydow, in his best comic role since the 1983 SCTV spinoff Strange Brew, plays a distrustable law-enforcement official, and director Roman Polanski is the malevolent police inspector who has Lee and Carter worked over when they arrive in Paris. The out-of-town cops are ferried around town by an American-hating cabbie played by writer-director Yvan Attal, husband of Charlotte Gainsbourg, and at an upscale burlesque club an elaborate striptease number is choreographed to “Bonnie and Clyde,” as sung by Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg, Charlotte’s late father. The movie doesn’t go so far as to invoke Godard or Truffaut, but when a giant French tricolor unfurls in a crucial scene, it’s clear that the era of Freedom Fries is over.