This Rush Hour review is spoiler-free. The series premieres Thursday, March 31st at 9 p.m. EST on CBS.
Like many of you reading this, I’m a big Jackie Chan fan. He originally made a name for himself in Hong Kong action films, starting out as a stunt coordinator before becoming a leading man. In addition to being a formidable martial artist, Chan was known for performing his own stunts, many of which injured him in the process. But what made Jackie Chan special was the way he imbued his characters with an effervescent humanity. His on-screen fight scenes were anything but rote; Chan often used props and humor to great effect.
Chris Tucker also has a distinctive style, making his bones as a stand-up comedian and in memorable supporting roles in movies like Friday and The Fifth Element. Tucker can steal a scene like nobody’s business—especially as Ruby Rhod in The Fifth Element.
The pairing of these two actors in 1998’s Rush Hour was ingenious. The ‘90s was rife with buddy cop movies, but Chan and Tucker had real chemistry onscreen. The subsequent sequels struggled to replicate the magic of the first film, so I was a bit hesitant about CBS’s attempt to bring Rush Hour to the small screen.
The pilot isn’t bad—but it’s not great, either. The show’s premise is basically the same: Detective Lee, a by-the-book Hong Kong cop, is ultimately paired with LAPD Detective Carter. But instead of tracking down a kidnapped girl, the pair is trying to find stolen Chinese artifacts. The two move past their initial differences rather quickly, but this is more for efficiency’s sake than it is a truly earned understanding of different policing methods or a mutual respect for different cultures.
As for the characters themselves, Jon Foo is a serviceable enough stand-in for Jackie Chan as Detective Lee. His fight scenes aren’t nearly as fun or electrifying as Chan’s though—but those are very big shoes for anyone to fill. The several fight scenes sprinkled throughout the episode are likewise perfunctory, but this may have less to do with Foo himself and in the way in which these scenes were filmed and edited. Out another way, the fights lacked punch—and I hope later episodes improve upon this.
Justin Hires is likewise fine as Detective Carter, though I felt like I was watching someone who was trying to embody Chris Tucker’s performance rather than embrace the character. And while Hires delivers his lines with plenty of smirks and energy, he doesn’t quite reach the manic heights Tucker did in the films. Again, big shoes to fill.
Foo and Hires work well together, but I’m curious to see where the show will take their budding partnership, especially given their lack of friction. The original film crackled with tension and numerous barbs as both cops tried to outdo one another while still remaining true to their disparate policing styles.
It’s worth noting that Wendie Malick stars as Captain Cole. Malick is always a welcome presence; here, she brings her wry humor to bear on the proceedings, even if her character is a bit two-dimensional.
Overall, this action comedy delivers lots of stunts, lots of pyrotechnics, and plenty of quips and one-liners. The show has a lot of potential, but what’s crucial to its initial success will be bringing more playfulness to its fight scenes. Also important is seeing Foo and Hires step out from the shadows of Chan and Tucker, making these characters more their own, and less like imitations of their big-screen counterparts.
Some closing thoughts:
I’m glad to see a bit of Lee family drama being thrown into the mix, and it looks to be a storyline that will provide conflict for the otherwise reserved cop.
Carter’s Cousin Gerald, played by Page Kennedy, had some genuinely funny, scene-stealing moments—and I hope to see more of him in future episodes.