RUSH HOUR Blu-ray Review

     January 21, 2011

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Having first seen director Brett Ratner’s Rush Hour with a less-refined taste in film during my youth may have left me a wee bit biased, but I still don’t consider it too much of a stretch to group this buddy-cop action-comedy up there with Lethal Weapon and Beverly Hills Cop as a staple of the genre. Sure it’s by-the-numbers, but this class of flick calls for that and sidesteps the pitfalls of its rehashed themes by showcasing a hilarious, well-matched duo: the loud-mouthed, bug-eyed Chris Tucker and the nimble, accent-thick Jackie Chan. Light on special effects and laden with memorable banter, this 80’s buddy-cop throwback is a shamelessly fun time-killer. My review of the Blu-Ray after the jump.

rush-hour-image-2Rush Hour follows LAPD’s Detective James Carter (Chris Tucker) and fish-out-of-water Detective Inspector Lee (Jackie Chan) from Hong Kong as they navigate the LA underworld for the kidnapped daughter of the new Chinese consulate, Lee’s close friend Consul Han (Tzi Ma). Although not their intended objective-Carter’s captain (Phillip Baker Hall) recommended him to the F.B.I. for a babysitting assignment, as they want Lee out of their way upon arrival-Lee’s persistence in escaping Carter’s grasp and his familiarity with the culprit, a quick-footed rival of his named Sang (Ken Leung), convinces Carter they can solve the case all by their lonesome. Along the way Carter and Lee develop an odd sort of brotherhood, learning to cope with and play off each others’ racial mockery and condescendingly superior athletic ability, respectively. The cast also includes Chris Penn and Tom Wilkinson.

So with its been-there-done-that story, inferior examples of Jackie Chan’s stunt abilities, uninspired direction and all around artistic blah-ness, how does Rush Hour overcome these hurdles and solidify itself as a top pick of the buddy-cop bunch? Chemistry. The stars truly aligned in Rush Hour’s favor, and I’m not talking astronomy; the pairing of Chris Tucker’s and Jackie Chan’s honed comic and physical sensibilities is unexpectedly ideal, and the film would have crashed on liftoff if one of the two were missing in action. This is a definitive popcorn flick.

rush-hour-image-3Warner Brothers’ 2.4:1 widescreen video transfer, while obviously superior to any previous DVD release, is the definition of mediocrity. There is noticeable grain throughout, particularly in dark scenes-which unfortunately are rather abundant in the first, much less colorful installment of the Rush Hour trilogy. That said, the actors and occasional vibrant color in well-lit scenes pop like a high definition treatment should. The 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track, meanwhile, sounds a little muffled. Action scenes should be giving the speakers a workout, and that intensity was never there. Dialogue came in at a considerably lower level than other sound effects, requiring a tweak of the dial before and after the flick’s intermittent explosions and shootouts.  Overall, the technical specs are serviceable but nothing you’ll flip on for your buddies in hopes of convincing them that Blu-Ray is the new king of home video.

There is a host of special features on this disc, presented in standard definition. The “Commentary by Director Brett Ratner” is the highlight, as the energized young director recalls candid details about all aspects of the production of his second feature film.  There’s an extensive making-of featurette titled “A Piece of the Action: Behind the Scenes of Rush Hour”, which is nearly a visual companion to what Ratner describes in his commentary. Another welcome inclusion is the director’s pre-Hollywood short film Whatever Happened to Mason Reese?; regardless of quality, it’s always fascinating to see how star filmmakers broke through the clutter. Soundtrack aficionados will probably appreciate the appearance of Dru Hill’s How Deep Is Your Love? music video, Heavy D & the Boyz’s Nuttin’ but Love music video and an “Isolated Score with Commentary by Composer Lalo Schifrin” on the disc. Finally, the common “Additional Scenes” and “Theatrical Trailer” goodies are here and accounted for.

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