I'm not entirely sure what happens in "Rush Hour 3," either, and I just saw it. It has to do with the infamous Chinese crime organization called the Triad, which has attempted to kill an ambassador in L.A. and may be planning an attack in Paris. It also involves the search for something or someone called the Shy Shen, which could be either real or legendary.
Whatever's going on, it leads to the customary hijinks between freewheeling L.A. cop James Carter (Chris Tucker) and straitlaced Hong Kong inspector Lee (Jackie Chan). They are reunited because Lee happens to be guarding the ambassador when the L.A. assassination attempt occurs, and it happens to occur a few blocks from where Carter is directing traffic. What are the odds!??
At first Lee isn't speaking to Carter because he's mad at him for the events of "Rush Hour 2," whatever those might have been. Something about shooting Lee's girlfriend in the neck, I gather. It's implied that Lee and Carter haven't communicated since then, although I note that 1) Carter has Lee's current cell phone number in his phone, even though Lee lives in Asia and probably has a very complicated number, and 2) Lee has a special ringtone set for when Carter calls him. So they can't be THAT estranged.
The film is primarily set in France, and the series has thankfully moved past most of the "odd couple" shtick that characterized the first two entries. But apart from that, it's "Rush Hour" business as usual. Chris Tucker speaks very quickly and in a high-pitched voice, alternating between wanting to flee from danger and wanting to talk beautiful women out of their clothes; Jackie Chan remains calm at all times and beats people up in impressive ways; and director Brett Ratner seizes every opportunity to stage a fight sequence, regardless of whether any of the characters in the scene actually have a good reason to fight.
Also on hand are Max von Sydow as a French diplomat named Reynard; Yvan Attal as George, a helpful Parisian taxi driver; Noemie Lenoir as Genevieve, a French model who's involved in all this somehow; Hiroyuki Sanada as Kenji, a Triad-affiliated hitman with a connection to Lee's past; and Oscar-winning director/rapist Roman Polanski as a French cop.
I'm not gonna lie to you: A lot of the movie is straight-up stupid. The L.A. assassin -- charged with a critical task that was carefully timed down to the second -- has no better escape plan than to slide down the outside of a skyscraper and then run madly and randomly through the streets. The movie's idea of a funny joke is for Carter to tell Lee, "You have too much rice in your diet! You're always constipated!" (See, that's hilarious for two reasons: One, it points out that Asian people eat a lot of rice. Two, it refers to a bodily function.) There's a shootout in a hospital, which is feasible only because the facility is curiously free of patients, nurses, and doctors. See? Stupid.
But then again, some of the action sequences are fun in their goofy way, and the film is not without its occasional bombastic charms. Jackie Chan's fighting, if reduced in screen time compared to previous films, is still potent and energized. Chris Tucker's irritating, Bugs Bunny-like insouciance -- which leads him to spontaneously impersonate a fashion designer in order to ogle showgirls' breasts, and later to go onstage as if performing in a cabaret -- grows on you after a while.
Yeah, it's stupid that Lee and a female assassin would get into a fight in a hotel room, and that the noises they make would sound, to Carter out in the hallway, like they're having sex. But forget that and think about this: If Carter thinks they've having sex, why does he have his ear pressed up to the door, grinning madly and vocally encouraging Lee onward? Isn't that weird? The scene is funny -- not for the reasons the movie wanted it to be, but still.
Jeff Nathanson's screenplay is a marvel of contrivances and coincidences, with villains and victims showing up in the most unlikely places at the most unlikely times, and the finale -- at the Eiffel Tower, naturellement -- is anti-climactic. I was stunned when the movie ended then; it felt like surely there was one more REAL climax on the way. It's not a bad movie, but eh. Fans waited six years for this?