One thing that might strike you about the new Jackie Chan movie after it's over is that the plot made a lot more sense than most of the star's comedic chopsocky films, but the title does not. The setting might be Los Angeles, but there's darn little that has to do with traffic - and not even a significant car chase.
But, again, you probably won't notice that until it's over. While the projector is running, you'll be kept busy marveling at Chan's marvelous athleticism and laughing out loud at the antics of co-star Chris Tucker.
That's right, Chan has finally done a buddy movie. (You might argue that "Supercop," with Michelle Yoh of "Tomorrow Never Dies," would qualify, but she was also a romantic interest.) Chan's first big-budget, full-blown Hollywood effort is easily the most polished film in which he's appeared.
Chan plays Detective Inspector Lee of the Hong Kong Police. He's called to L.A. by his former boss, now the Chinese consul, to help find his kidnapped daughter.
The turf-conscious FBI arranges to keep Lee out of the way by pairing him with vain, mouthy, screw-up LAPD detective James Carter (Tucker). Much of the movie is played for culture-clash laughs as the two men - one who speaks English as a second language, and one who speaks his own version - attempt to communicate.
There are loads of harmless, cheerful stereotypes of the kind we used to be allowed to laugh at back when Lucy could make fun of Ricky's accent. A couple of the more memorable include Carter's riff on "never touch a black man's radio"; a stakeout scene in which Lee teaches Carter martial-arts moves as Carter teaches him how to dance; and a pool-hall fight that breaks out when Lee doesn't realize he can't talk to certain black people the same way Carter does.
Chan, known as a gifted clown himself, mostly lets Tucker carry the comedic load while showing unexpected emotional depth as the concerned family friend of the 11-year-old victim. Of course, every once in a while, he gets to perform spectacular feats of fighting, climbing and jumping.
The classy supporting cast includes Tom Wilkinson ("The Full Monty"), Mark Rolston, Chris Penn and the criminally underused Elizabeth Pena, but their roles are basically extended cameos. This is a two-man show.
Tucker is a riot as the wiseacre who finally learns a lesson about personal honor, although his schtick does go on a tad too long, leaving too many spots in which Chan has little to do but watch.
Tucker's vulgar, profane motormouth is also the reason this movie is rated PG-13. The talk isn't particularly harsh, just constant. Parents should keep that in mind - although at heart, this movie is as innocent as most Chan offerings.
"Rush Hour" has a lot fewer action scenes per minute than recent Chan movies, but, as genre films go, has a smart script, easily better than "Lethal Weapon 4," an earlier summer hit with which it has much in common.
Even the chemistry among the leads is better. There is sure to be a sequel - maybe an adventure with Carter in Hong Kong?