Picking up soon after the first film's conclusion, "Rush Hour 2" finds LAPD detective Carter (Chris Tucker) eager to enjoy a Hong Kong vacation, but he's stymied at every turn by detective Lee (Jackie Chan), who drags Carter along as he goes about his daily police work. But a rash of bombings that appear to be connected to a Triad boss named Ricky Tan (John Lone) hit a deeper nerve for both men. Tan, it is revealed, was the former police officer whose betrayal led to the death of Lee's father. And, having lost his own police officer father under similar conditions, Carter is only too eager to Help Lee unravel the case.
Unfortunately, the case--which concerns an international smuggling and counterfeiting operation--has already been on the radar of the U.S. Secret Service for some time, prompting the agency to order Lee and Carter to back off (déjà vu from the first film when they got much the same directive from the FBI). And, true to form, they ignore it.
The remainder of the picture goes through the motions of the genre with Carter and Lee picking up the suspicious trail of a wealthy American businessman (Alan King), which leads them back to Los Angeles and, subsequently, to Las Vegas, where all hell finally breaks loose. Along the way there are repeated encounters with a lethal Chinese woman ("Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" star Zhang Ziyi) and her gang of thugs, as well as a few obligatory narrative twists and turns to keep things fresh. Throughout it all, though, the filmmakers, notably original "Rush Hour" director Brett Ratner, keep their focus on Jackie and Chris, conscious to steer clear of any overplotting that could undermine the chemistry that has proved so successful.
On the predictable side, fans will be happy to see Tucker motor-mouthing his way through even more outrageous displays of public obnoxiousness while Jackie (who is pushing 50) continues to dazzle with feats of physical prowess that still surpass the abilities of actors half his age. The film's most rewarding surprising, though, is how confident both men have become in stepping into each other's territory--Chris Tucker displaying surprisingly deft fighting skills and Jackie easing more comfortably into verbal comedy.
The design and staging of the set pieces, which are scattered between Hong Kong and Las Vegas, also represent a marked improvement over the first film. They are by far the best such scenes that Jackie has yet done in an American film and suggest that both Ratner and Tucker have stepped up their abilities to work with such scenes as well.
In short, "Rush Hour 2" does a marvelous job of holding together its base while expanding its appeal to new legions of the unconverted. And that bodes well not only for the film's profits, but for the future of the "Rush Hour" franchise in general, all but guaranteeing another successful outing for fans (and New Line shareholders) to anticipate.
Finally, audiences should remember to stay put for the hilarious (and occasionally painful) credit sequence outtakes. Starring Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, John Lone, Zhang Ziyi, Alan King and Roselyn Sanchez. Directed by Brett Ratner. Written by Jeff Nathanson. Produced by Arthur Sarkissian, Roger Birnbaum, Jay Stern and Jonathan Glickman. A New Line release. Action-comedy. Rated PG-13 for action violence, language and some sexual material. Running time: 84 min