Rush Hour 3

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You'd think a movie with the word "rush" in its title would at least keep things moving at a decent clip.

But in its third time out of the gate, "Rush Hour 3," reuniting Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan, hits the ground stalling.

Even with Brett Ratner again returning to the helm of the successful globe-trotting franchise that really launched his career -- the first two films earned in excess of $590 million worldwide -- any sense of momentum seems to have been lost over the course of the six years since the last installment.

Given the enthusiastic fan base, the New Line Cinema release should have no problem nabbing top spot over the Aug. 10 weekend, but likely will fall well short of the $225 million collared by "Rush Hour 2."

As buddy cop action-comedies go, "Rush Hour" from the outset always felt like the poorer relation next to a "Beverly Hills Cop" or a "Lethal Weapon."

What it had going for it was that engaging yin/yang of the Chan/Tucker personalities that made for an amusing clash of cultures.

This time, however, the routine goes awfully stale, with the actors doing the shtick-handling without the chemistry that compensated for all the by-the-numbers formula.

Here we have Tucker's LAPD Detective Carter and Chan's Inspector Lee reuniting in Los Angeles before relocating to Paris to stop an international crime syndicate known as the Triads in their notorious tracks.

While their search for the elusive Shy Shen leads them from the sewers of Paris to the top of the Eiffel Tower, the picture, even with three editors at its disposal, seldom gets off the ground.

Even bits that would seem to be can't-miss propositions, like when Tucker poses as a fey French designer named Bubbles in order to "review the troops" backstage at the Folies-Bergeres (played by a theater in Santa Ana), fall awfully flat.

As Ratner, his two leads and returning screenwriter Jeff Nathanson all appear to be approaching the task at hand with all the inspiration of a contractual obligation, the assembled cosmopolitan cast -- including old pro Max von Sydow as the French foreign minister, the alluring Noemie Lenoir as the resident femme fatale and director Roman Polanski as an obnoxious police inspector -- do what they can to add a bit of much-needed vitality.

With the exception of that Eiffel Tower finale that delivers a couple of sky-high thrills, if a little late in the game, the obligatory action sequences also tend to simply go through the motions, offering little in the way of freshness or ingenuity.

Admittedly, it all looks pretty terrific, thanks to the vibrant camerawork of cinematographer J. Michael Muro ("Open Range," "Crash") and the sets by production designer Edward Verreaux ("Monster House," "Contact")

With the masterful Lalo Schifrin handling the scoring, "Rush Hour 3" at least sounds like it's moving in a propulsive direction, even as it sputters to the finish line.

RUSH HOUR 3
New Line Cinema
New Line Cinema presents anArthur Sarkissian and Roger Birnbaum production
Credits:
Director: Brett Ratner
Screenwriter: Jeff Nathanson
Based on characters created by: Ross LaManna
Producers: Arthur Sarkissian, Roger Birnbaum, Jay Stern, Jonathan Glickman, Andrew Z. Davis
Executive producer: Toby Emmerich
Director of photography: J. Michael Muro
Production designer: Edward Verreaux
Music: Lalo Schifrin
Co-producers: James M. Freitag, Leon Dudevoir
Costume designer: Betsy Heimann
Editors: Don Zimmerman, Dean Zimmerman, Mark Helfrich
Cast:
Carter: Chris Tucker
Lee: Jackie Chan
Kenji: Hiroyuki Sanada
Jasmine: Youki Kudoh
Reynard: Max von Sydow
George: Yvan Attal
Genevieve: Noemie Lenoir
Soo Yung: Jinchu Zhang
Running time -- 91 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13
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