In the US: Thursdays, 10/9c, CBS
In the UK: Acquired by E4. Begins 9pm, April 19 (probably)
The original Rush Hour, a 1998 action comedy in which black US cop Chris Tucker forges an unlikely buddy-buddy relationship with Chinese cop Jackie Chan, was a huge hit, earning US$244m at the box office as well as two sequels. The big mystery was why. Why was this most average of movies such a big hit?
Tucker, after all, is a candidate for an award for ‘most annoying human being on the face of the planet’.
Chan, of course, is great. Or at least was, back in his 1980s Hong Kong heyday. But in Rush Hour, older and, as with most Asian action cinema stars In Western movies, slower, he’s not that impressive. He’s still Jackie Chan but he’s no Drunken Master any more, certainly.
Then there’s the script, which is borderline offensive most of the time.
And lastly (well, I could go on, but I won’t) there’s Brett Ratner’s average direction, Ratner as we’ve already established being the world’s most average director. Rush Hour in no way disproved this theory.
It’s just blah. So why so popular? I can only assume that it was either Chan’s mere presence in a movie or the fact it had a black and an Asian lead, was enough to make audience hungry for such mainstream rarities willing to watch pretty much anything – much like men in deserts with nothing to drink for days will imbibe almost anything they’re given, even Irn Bru.
If only there were a way to test.
Guess what. There is. It’s Rush Hour, CBS’s ‘reimagining’ of the original movie. Again, why bother, given how average the original was? I’m not sure, but that boat has sailed already. It’s here. Now we have to deal with it as it puts into port.
Rush Hour the series sees London’s own Jon Foo (from Jackie Chan’s own House of Fury) in the Chan role of a Hong Kong detective coming over to the US to investigate the theft of some terracotta soldiers on loan to a Los Angeles museum… as well as the murder of his cop sister. He’s partnered with LAPD detective Justin Hires (21 Jump Street) and wouldn’t you know it, there’s a clash of cultures, as the straight-laced Foo has to deal with Americans and their way informal ways, Hires having to adapt to the Chinese habit of kicking everyone else in the head every 10 minutes. Together they have to form a partnership to take down the bad guys, and wouldn’t you know, it by the end of the pilot episode, they’re partners for real.
Now you’d think that bereft of Tucker and Ratner, the Rush Hour format could only get better. But no. While Hires isn’t even a fraction as annoying as Tucker, he’s an appalling and uncharismatic actor. His dialogue might not be as overtly racist as Tucker’s was in the movie, but appropriately enough, he still sounds like he’s been given a black 90s stand-up’s lines (“You see white people? They go like this… You see black people? They go like this…”).
Meanwhile, it’s a little unclear whether Foo is simply taking “stiff and formal” a little too literally and behaving like he’s made of formica or if he simply can’t act. To his credit, he’s clearly a good martial artist, but he’s only technically good, capable of hurting people fluidly, but not charismatic or entertaining. Despite one or two attempts to go full Hong Kong with props, this is certainly not the new Martial Law.
It’s not even Into The Badlands.
Otherwise, despite the CBS budget, this is straight to syndication B-material, the sort of thing that makes you yearn for the days of The Adventures of Sinbad and Queen of Swords. No one’s trying very hard with the plot or the action scenes, the dialogue tries to be a bit racist but its heart isn’t really in it, and the supporting cast are more watchable than the leads but only just.
It’s not terrible: you can have it flicking across your TV screen, grabbing 8% of your attention while you do a crossword or repot some plants, and you won’t feel motivated to slit your own throat or even change channel. But there’s literally nothing to recommend it, nothing for you to highlight as a reason to watch it if anyone asks.
So if it succeeds, I think we can put it down to the scarcity of stories with black and Asian leads; if it fails, we can all appreciate how even on his worst day, Jackie Chan was just box office dynamite.