In the closing-credits blooper reel for ''Rush Hour 2,'' Chris Tucker wisecracks that a freshly dead bad guy won't be back for the next sequel.
Count on Jackie Chan and Tucker to be back for ''Rush Hour 3,'' though. The co-stars and director Brett Ratner, who also made the first ''Rush Hour,'' have plenty of mileage left in this winning buddy-flick franchise.
It's not a great comedy or a great action movie, but ''Rush Hour 2'' has enough of both -- plus the best squabbling-cop duo since the early ''Lethal Weapon'' films -- to make it a fun, frolicsome ride from start to finish.
The action picks up where ''Rush Hour'' left off, with police inspector Lee (Chan) returning to Hong Kong accompanied by motor-mouthed LAPD detective Carter (Tucker), who's looking for some R&R in the Orient.
To Carter's consternation, Lee agrees to help investigate a fatal bombing at the U.S. Embassy. The case quickly leaves them dangling over a busy Hong Kong street on a length of creaky bamboo, busting up a massage parlor and crashing a swanky yacht party with fists and feet blazing.
The scene shifts to Los Angeles and Las Vegas as the pair tracks a counterfeiting ring led by Ricky Tan (John Lone), an ex-Hong Kong cop with a dark connection to Lee's dead father. Lone, star of ''The Last Emperor,'' makes for an elegantly sinister villain, even with his limited screen time.
Zhang Ziyi, the high-kicking anti-hero of ''Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,'' plays Tan's venomous, butt-stomping henchwoman. Zhang remains a formidable physical presence here, though her one-dimensional role leaves little opportunity to show off the dramatic subtlety she demonstrated in ''Crouching Tiger.''
Rounding out the cast is Alan King in a disposable part as a billionaire conspirator and Roselyn Sanchez as a feisty Secret Service agent who keeps Lee and Carter guessing as to which side she's on.
Don Cheadle has an amusing cameo as a martial-arts enthusiast who puts Carter in his place by calling him ''7-11,'' ''because his mouth never closes.'' Jeremy Piven steals his brief scene as an effete Versace salesman with a hilarious stream of one-liners.
As with the first ''Rush Hour,'' the simple plot -- a plan to launder funny money through American casinos -- serves mainly to set Lee and Carter up in tight comic corners.
This time, there's more balance between which actor does most of the fighting and which one most of the yammering. Tucker throws a few more punches, while Chan gets to hurl a few more insults.
The quips, put-downs and other repartee are fairly ordinary, but earnest delivery by Chan and especially by Tucker makes the dialogue feel smarter and snappier than it is.
''In Hong Kong, I am Michael Jackson. You are Toto,'' Lee tells Carter.
''You mean Tito,'' Carter responds. ''Toto's what we ate last night for dinner.''
The hand-to-hand combat is pretty pedestrian compared with Chan's full-blown martial-arts adventures. But he does make entertaining use of found objects as props in his fighting.
With slightly better comedy and action, ''Rush Hour 2'' is that rare sequel that exceeds the original, and not only in the salaries of its stars.
A New Line release, ''Rush Hour 2'' is rated PG-13 for action violence, language and some sexual material. Running time: 90 minutes.
Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:
G -- General audiences. All ages admitted.
PG -- Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.
PG-13 -- Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.
R -- Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.
NC-17 -- No one under 17 admitted.
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