Rush Hour 2
The original Rush Hour had surprised everyone with its phenomenal success when it was released in 1998. No one had been more shocked than Jackie Chan. He had already been a megastar in Hong Kong for years, but the same level of fame with American audiences had always eluded him. When Rush Hour exploded, Chan had all but given up on trying to be a star in America and was ready to head back to Hong Kong permanently. With Rush Hour earning over $141 million at the box office, practically overnight, everything changed.
According to director Brett Ratner, plans for a sequel were being laid almost immediately following the release of the first film. "We wrote the last scene of the original," Ratner said in a 2001 interview, "hoping that we would be making a sequel one day."
The seed for the plot of Rush Hour 2 was planted early on while Brett Ratner and the cast were promoting the original in 1998. "Chris (Tucker) and I went to the premiere (of Rush Hour) in Hong Kong," Ratner told Entertainment Weekly in 2001, "and watching him interact hilariously with the people, and do his Michael Jackson imitations at karaoke bars-bingo...we would be walking down the street, and he'd be talking to people and no one would understand a word he was saying. They looked at him like he was crazy."
Many of the real-life comic situations that Tucker found himself in while visiting Hong Kong helped inspire parts of the sequel, which would revolve this time around Tucker's character being the fish out of water. The story was fleshed out over the next couple of years with Jeff Nathanson writing the screenplay. Nathanson had reportedly done some uncredited work on the script for the first Rush Hour (originally penned by Ross LaManna), and Ratner was impressed. According to Entertainment Weekly, the President of Production at New Line Cinema at the time, Toby Emmerich, also contributed to a polish of the screenplay, while the writing team of Raven Metzner and Stu Zicherman helped shape the sequel's flashy Las Vegas climax. Using Las Vegas as a location was a treat for Brett Ratner, who admittedly loved to roll the dice. "I always wanted to make a movie in Vegas," he said in 2001. "If I wasn't a filmmaker, I would be in the casino business."
The star power of both Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker increased significantly after the first Rush Hour, and their salaries for Rush Hour 2 proved it. To repeat their roles as Carter and Lee, Chris Tucker received $20 million (up from $3 million for the first one) and Jackie Chan received $15 million plus back end points (up from $5 million). Negotiating the giant jump in salaries alone took over a year to finalize. Once the film was set to roll, however, everyone was looking forward to it. "In the first movie," Chris Tucker said in 2001, "the two characters came from two different worlds and had to get to know each other. In this movie, we already know each other and it's already established, so we can have even more fun. Jackie and I were born to work together."
Roselyn Sanchez and Zhang Ziyi were added to the cast to fill the central female roles in Rush Hour 2. Ziyi's role as the beautiful but deadly Hu Li was originally written for a man. However, Ratner was so taken with the Chinese beauty after watching her remarkable performance in the Oscar®-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000) that he had the part re-written and expanded especially for her. The movie was Ziyi's first English speaking movie, though she could barely speak the language at the time. In fact, her character speaks only three words in the entire film. Despite this challenge, Ziyi was determined to make her mark, including doing most of her own stunts. "She only used a stunt double twice during filming," said Jackie Chan. "She really wants to learn new things and is always saying, 'I want to do it.' I tell her to trust me and then she does the stunt. She's so exciting and a wonderful actress."
Roselyn Sanchez, who plays sexy secret service agent Isabella Molina, was thrilled with her part in Rush Hour 2. It was a chance to play "a tough woman, someone who is intelligent, smart and can kick some ass. It's been great fun," she said in a 2001 interview.
Cameras rolled on Rush Hour 2 in December 2000. Though there was a script firmly in place, that wasn't going to stop Chan and Tucker from seizing every opportunity to add their own flourishes. "It wasn't the best script in the world," Tucker told Entertainment Weekly in 2001. "All we needed was a guideline, and me and Jackie were going to take it to the next level." Brett Ratner agreed. "Look," added Ratner, "we were writing as we went. That's just the kind of movie it is - all of us improvising."
Despite their onscreen chemistry, there were rumors of off-screen tension between the two stars, but it proved to be old news. While it was true that Chan and Tucker were as diametrically opposed as their movie characters, over time they managed to bond. "With this movie," said Chan in 2001, "we were becoming buddies. For part one I didn't really know him and I was hiding from him. When he came to talk to me I would just hide from him because I didn't know what he was saying and I had to respond...Slowly we would get to know each other on the promoting tours. In Japan, Hong Kong and Korea we stay (sic) together, we ate together, and became good friends. Now we are buddies."
For Jackie Chan, the second time around was better in more ways than one. In addition to a bigger payday and making friends with Chris Tucker, he was also much more involved in the filmmaking process with Rush Hour 2. "This time," Chan said, "I was creatively involved a lot. Everybody trusted me. Before the first one, they weren't so sure. But now, it's whatever I want." Like he did for the first Rush Hour, Chan helped coordinate many of the spectacular stunts and martial arts action sequences.
Rush Hour 2 opened big in the summer of 2001, doubling the opening weekend take of the first film. It went on to become one of the top five box office grossing films for the entire year.
Critical response to Rush Hour 2 was generally mixed, though most reviewers understood the film's mass appeal as sheer popcorn entertainment. "The money is flying in Rush Hour 2," said Variety, "and it goes above and beyond the much-publicized combined $35 million payday for co-stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker. The earnings from the blockbuster predecessor have been smartly plowed back into this superior sequel, which is the very model of the limber, transnational Hollywood action comedy." Rolling Stone said, "the film winds up being faster and funnier than the first time. Chan's acrobatic high jinks play strikingly off of Tucker's wiseass humor...John Lone glowers suavely as Ricky Tan, and Zhang Ziyi...sizzles as Hu Li, the cutest baddie in any summer film. For a sexy twist, add Roselyn Sanchez as Isabella Molina, a double agent who leaves both Lee and Tucker panting - for good reason."
The teaming of Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan and Brett Ratner was gold all over again for Rush Hour 2. "My personality is in the movie," said Brett Ratner in 2001. "My humor, my personality. The directors I admire, like the Cohen brothers or Scorsese, when you see their films, you see them. If you knew me better, you would say, 'That's Brett. That's a Brett film.'"
Watch for surprise cameos from Don Cheadle as a police informant in a Chinese restaurant and Jeremy Piven as a flamboyant salesman in a Las Vegas Versace boutique.
Rush Hour 2 was followed by Rush Hour 3 in 2007.
Producers: Roger Birnbaum, Jonathan Glickman, Arthur Sarkissian, Jay Stern
Director: Brett Ratner
Screenplay: Jeff Nathanson, Ross LaManna (characters)
Cinematography: Matthew F. Leonetti
Art Direction: Andrew Max Cahn, Second Chan, William Cruse, James E. Tocci
Music: Ira Hearshen, Nile Rodgers, Lalo Schifrin
Film Editing: Mark Helfrich, Robert K. Lambert
Cast: Jackie Chan (Chief Inspector Lee), Chris Tucker (Detective James Carter), John Lone (Ricky Tan), Zhang Ziyi (Hu Li), Roselyn Sanchez (Isabella Molina), Harris Yulin (Agent Sterling), Alan King (Steven Reign), Kenneth Tsang (Captain Chin)
by Andrea Passafiume