The first (and best) part of the Rush Hour trilogy has arrived on Blu-Ray. Released in 1998, this is the film that introduced the world to the comedic pairing of stuntman extraordinaire Jackie Chan with self-proclaimed “motor mouth,” Chris Tucker. In telling the story of two cops with nothing in common, forced together on a case, it was apparent that this film wouldn’t be breaking any new ground. The concept of mismatched partners is obviously an old one. Coming after the likes of Lethal Weapon, Tango and Cash, etc., the only way this film could work is if there is terrific chemistry between the leads. And in this case, there is.
Going into this film, I was impartial to Jackie Chan and I strongly disliked Chris Tucker. Of course, I respected Chan’s physicality, but I still wasn’t on board with him as an actor. And as far as I was concerned, Tucker’s gratingly obnoxious schtick not only ruined The Fifth Element for me, but his film Money Talks is one of the very few movies I’ve actually walked out on. I just didn’t get Tucker’s appeal. But somehow, when put together, they both became instantly likeable. Everything about this production is by-the-numbers, but I still really enjoyed seeing these two interact with each other.
The interplay between them feels natural, and never once does it feel like they are forcing the comedy. While a lot of the humor is racially motivated, a lot of it is genuinely character-driven. This is why I feel the film works. The plot mechanics are irrelevant. This is a movie about these characters and that’s it.
The Blu-Ray is presented in 1080p High Definition, and the picture looks great. Because Chan infamously does his own stunts, the camera will often linger on an action sequence, giving the viewer the opportunity to revel in Chan’s movements. Previously, I had only seen the film on a worn-out VHS, and it was nice to see the image cleaned up, and really be able to focus on what was happening.
As far as the extras are concerns, there is quite a lot of material, but it’s not all that great. There is a commentary by director Brett Ratner, who is obviously a fan of the film, as well as his student film “Whatever Happened to Mason Reese?” I hate to put down a student film with obviously good intentions, but this was just awful. Featuring one of the most genuinely unlikeable characters I’ve seen in a long time, I couldn’t wait for this to end.
There are also a couple of music videos, the trailer, and an isolated score commentary. However, the big feature is a documentary running just over 40 minutes called “A Piece of the Action: Behind the Scenes of Rush Hour.” Broken up into several mini-segments, this is a combination of interviews and actual behind-the-scenes footage. Unlike most of these features, it feels strongly under-produced, and serves as more of a fly-on-the-wall type of feature. While I usually enjoy these, this one is unusually boring. They seem to capture the most miniscule, incidental moments, and linger on them. I found myself growing bored very quickly.
Overall, it’s a strong disc on a technical level, but a mediocre one for the extras. The pairing of Tucker and Chan helped this to be a much better movie than it should have been. Unfortunately, the mediocre sequels became a lot more slapstick and the jokes much more forced. However, as a stand-alone film, I strongly recommend this one. You won’t see anything new, but you’ll have a great time.