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Site created 12/15/97.


review added: 3/9/99



Rush Hour
New Line Platinum Series - 1998 (1999) - New Line

review by Bill Hunt, editor of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVs

Rush Hour DVD Film Rating: B
What a fun flick. Chan and Tucker have good chemistry - there are some very funny moments here. And with Chan, there's always lots of great physical action. Fun stuff

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): A/B+/A-
Great anamorphic widescreen picture, and very good 5.1 surround. Tons of extras too, but I'm not crazy about the DVD-ROM content (read on - I'll explain).

Overall Rating: A
Come on - Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker?! How can you go wrong? Answer: you can't! This is a great little buddy flick, with some good laughs and great Chan action. And the disc is pretty loaded, so you get your money's worth.

Specs and Features

97 mins, PG-13, letterboxed widescreen (2.35:1), 16x9 enhanced, single-sided, dual-layered (no layer switch in film), Snapper packaging, audio commentary by director Brett Ratner, isolated score, reel of deleted scenes, featurette - A Piece of the Action - Behind the scenes of Rush Hour, theatrical trailer, cast and crew biographies, director's short film Whatever Happened to Mason Reese? with commentary, Dru Hill How Deep Is Your Love and Heavy D Nuttin' But Love music videos with commentary, PC-only DVD-ROM features (which include web access, interactive games, and printable screenplay linked to each scene), film-themed menu screens with animation and sound, scene access (37 chapters), languages: English (DD 5.1 & 2.0), subtitles: English, Close Captioned

Review

I'll confess it right up front - I'm a big Jackie Chan fan. I had never heard of the guy until I saw Supercop on DVD a few months ago, and now I'm a junkie. The guy has just got great charisma, he's very funny, and (frankly) I think he's nuts for doing the kind of off-the-wall stunts he's known for without a safety net. Chan is like a Chinese cross between Buster Keaton, Jerry Lewis, and Evil Knievel. How's that for a combination?

In Rush Hour, Chan is teamed up with comedian Chris Tucker, whom you've seen before in The Fifth Element and Money Talks. Now, that's an unlikely duo to be sure, but that's exactly why it works. These two couldn't be more different, but they both have great senses of humor, and they have great chemistry together. They play off each other perfectly, and all you have to do is watch the outtakes (during the end credits) to see that these guys crack each other up. They're having fun together, and in a film like this, that's half the battle.

Here's the story: Chan plays Inspector Lee, a Hong Kong cop who leads a bust that breaks the back of a Chinese crime ring. But the chief badass manages to escape. Some time later, the daughter of the Chinese consul in the United States is kidnapped by said badass. When the FBI is called in to work the case, the consul asks that his old friend Lee be involved. But the FBI has no intention of letting a foreign national get in their way, so they recruit an LAPD officer to keep him occupied until the case is solved. The LAPD has just the man for the job - Detective James Carter (Tucker), a fast-talking, wise-cracking cop who likes to do things in his own unique style. But Lee has no intention of being kept away from the action. And when Carter realizes his job is basically glorified baby-sitter, he decides to solve the case himself to show the FBI up. Thus Lee and Carter form an unlikely partnership, and find themselves smack in the middle of all sorts of mayhem.

Second time director Brett Ratner brings youthful enthusiasm to this buddy flick, and you have to give him credit - he's smart enough to surround himself with the best crew available. They make him look good here. And it's tough to go wrong with Jackie Chan involved, who brings his own personal stunt team into the action (under the safety conscious eye of Hollywood stunt coordinator Terry Leonard). The result is a movie that overcomes an average, ho-hum script, and manages to be funny, fast-paced and good fun to watch. And damn - Jackie Chan kicks ass!

The anamorphic widescreen picture on the New Line DVD is excellent - this a crisp, clear transfer. The colors are spot-on, the contrast is good, and the print used is of excellent quality. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio is also quite good, with deep bass and some nice use of the surround channels. Dialogue seems generally natural, and the overall mix is decent, if a bit directional. All in all, the picture and sound quality are very good, so let's move on to the extras. And there are tons of extras to talk about.

First of all, the director's commentary is a pretty good listen. Ratner is young and brash, but you can't help but be taken in by his enthusiasm, and the respect he has for his cast and crew. And the commentary is not present just on the film itself, but also on the two music videos (both directed by Ratner) and his original short film as well, all of which are included on this DVD. You have the opportunity to listen to the isolated musical score (with commentary by composer Lalo Schifrin). There is a theatrical trailer of excellent picture and sound quality, a short reel of deleted scenes, and a section of bios and filmographies of the cast and crew. There's also a behind-the-scenes documentary included, that runs about 30 minutes. It's very uneven, and drags occasionally. But some funny outtakes are included, as are a few interesting interview clips with Ratner, Chan and Tucker, among others. By far the most enjoyable part of the featurette, however, is that you get to watch Chan as he plans one of the film's major hand-to-hand fight scenes, almost on the spot. It's a treat to watch as he comes up with moves, tries to explain them to everyone, and then rehearses with Tucker. After watching that, I went back and watched the fight scene in the film again, with a new-found respect for just how complex it was to set up and film.

I must say, however, I didn't care much for the DVD's menu screens. They were a bit generic-looking, and who picked that music clip played over the main menu anyway? It runs about 48 seconds, but it might as well have been the same 5 second clip on a loop. And it repeats again and again and again.... This is not a disc that you want to linger on the main menu long - trust me. Even my cats were irritated by it.

I also have mixed feelings about the DVD-ROM content. For one thing, it's PC compatible only. This is always a big mistake in my book. I much prefer the way the DVD-ROM content was encoded on From the Earth to the Moon - it's all done in HTML, so it's accessible to everyone who has a computer with a good browser. Also, the DVD-ROM extras on Rush Hour require that you install "PC Friendly DVD" software onto your computer... and I hate that. Particularly with Windows 95 or 98, you never know how your system will react - I had several lockups trying to access some of the features, on more than one computer. But I was eventually able to get it all working. Included are links to the New Line web site (plenty of cross promotion opportunities, naturally), along with several interactive games, and my favorite feature... the complete film screenplay. You have the opportunity to print the script out, or read it scene by scene. You can also read a particular scene, then click a link to watch the scene as it was eventually filmed on the DVD - very cool indeed. All in all, the DVD-ROM extras are a mixed bag, but I do dig the script thing.

Bottom line

Rush Hour is a darned fun action flick. The quality is good all around, and there are a boat-load of extras on board (some of which are dubious, but there's enough good stuff to satisfy). For the price, it's pretty tough to go wrong. I'm definitely hoping that Chan and Tucker work together again soon, and my guess is that Rush Hour 2 is already in the works. Any film that has Jackie Chan saying, "We can hang at my crib. I will show you my hood," is worth a sequel.

Bill Hunt
billhunt@thedigitalbits.com




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