The new Rush Hour TV series premieres on CBS Thursday. We recently checked out the pilot and rewatched the original 1998 martial arts/buddy cop action-comedy. How do they stack up against each other? Let’s compare in Fandom’s latest installment of Reboot Camp!
In the three Rush Hour movies, Jackie Chan plays Lee, a Hong Kong detective who comes to the States and is paired with Chris Tucker’s Detective Carter. It’s a fish-out-of-water scenario in which the mismatched pairing is played for maximum laughs. The films were a perfect showcase for Chan’s martial arts prowess and his comedy chops — he’s at his best when blending the two.
The TV series adaptation stars Jon Foo in the role of Lee, and he’s not bad. But Chan’s are tremendous shoes to fill. Foo can be funny, but he doesn’t have Chan’s perfect timing. Having seen some of his previous work (Bangkok Revenge), we know Foo’s got kung fu skills, but he isn’t given the chance to show them off in full effect — at least not in the pilot. Regardless, nobody’s gonna top Chan’s legendary Buster Keaton-ish fighting style.
Chris Tucker’s performance in the original Rush Hour is one of his best big-screen turns — right up there with Friday and The Fifth Element. He’s incredibly funny as the fast-talking Detective Carter, who is not, at least initially, fond of his new partner. And there are jokes, many with a racial/cultural bent, that simply would not have worked without Tucker delivering them.
In the TV series, Carter is played by Justin Hires. Hires is a decent lead, and it seems he has what it takes to take the role higher if the material calls for it. His biggest problem is that he seems to be, at least partially, jacking Tucker’s style. That’s inviting a comparison that you’re never going to win.
The Rush Hour premiere has numerous one-liners that hit their mark. Foo and Hires each get their share of funny quips, but they don’t have the kind of chemistry that Chan and Tucker had, so the jokes don’t work as well. And their characters get along well enough, so there isn’t any real tension in the relationship to play off of. In the original, you could feel Lee and Carter’s mutual dislike, and so much of the humor is derived from it.
The show waters down the kind of racial comedy that most audiences enjoyed in the original, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. While it worked on the big screen in 1998, it makes sense to reflect progress. For example, Lee speaks near-perfect English, so there’s no opportunity for a “Do you understand the words that are comin’ out of my mouth!?” scene.
The action scenes in the original Rush Hour, which highlight Chan’s bold, almost-comedic style, are exhilarating. The scene where he leaps from the double-decker bus, to an overhead sign, to a truck — it’s magic. The series premiere never gives Foo anything to have much fun with. There are lots of stunts, and they’re well done, but the action lacks the playful style that made the original so great. The pilot attempts to offer some adrenaline-charged moments, most notably in the opening helicopter scene, but many of them end up seeming second-rate. All that said… Hey, it’s got explosions.
While CBS’ new Rush Hour series could be fine — the building blocks are there — the pilot shows problems that need to be remedied. But here’s the real issue: Fix them all and you still can’t live up to the 1998 original. As far as we’re concerned, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan’s Rush Hour is the only one that’s worth the commute.