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Chan, Tucker: An unlikely teamup works

- Jamie Portman () - August 13, 2001 - 12:00am
BEVERLY HILLS, California – On paper, it seemed the most unlikely comic partnership. On the one hand, there was the venerable Jackie Chan – martial arts expert extraordinaire, the Hong Kong wizard famous for always doing his own hair-raising stunts, the guy Time magazine once called "the world’s most beloved movie star." And on the other hand, there was black motormouth comic Chris Tucker, a kid who had already made his mark on the LA comedy circuit before he turned 20.

Both were regarded as ethnic performers. Chan may have been a superstar in many parts of the world, but he was still struggling to break into the North American market, and a previous involvement with Hollywood in the 1984 Cannonball Run II had been a deep disappointment. As for Tucker, he had done a series of small roles but only one starring performance – in the poorly received Money Talks. His hyperactive style was in marked contrast to that of Chan, a performer capable of investing even the most exciting action moment with balletic grace. Yet now, these two were to work together in a buddy movie called Rush Hour. Would the mixture take?

Why bother asking? When Rush Hour hit movie houses in 1998, it was a smash, grossing more than $250 million worldwide. It demolished the long-held Hollywood theory that teamings like this needed at least one white actor in the equation.

Which is why they are together again, with Ratner once more at the helm, in Rush Hour 2. Tucker has a typical quip to explain why the two have such good chemistry on the screen: "I think we’re spiritual brothers from another planet."

But then he gives the wisecracks a rest and explains why he personally enjoys working with Chan. "He’s the nicest guy in the world." He’s humble. You don’t meet a lot of people who just know who they are and don’t take a lot of stuff seriously and just wants to have fun.

For Chan’s part, he says his 29-year-old co-star makes him feel more secure when working in a big Hollywood movie. "Chris helped me a lot," Chan says simply.

Tucker is also fully aware that some kind of ethnic barrier has been broken with the Rush Hour movies. "Americans are slowly adjusting to the fact that funny is funny," Carter explains in his familiar high-pitched staccato. "All around the world, people are so intelligent now. Times have changed. People just like good movies. It’s not about color any more."

In the new film, Chan is back as Chief Inspector Lee of the Royal Hong Kong Police and Tucker is reprising his role as nervy LA cop James Carter. The previous outing had Chan’s Hong Kong cop plunged into an alien milieu – Southern California. The new movie reverses the situation with Tucker’s LA detective arriving in Hong Kong for a vacation and immediately being plunged into an investigation of an international smuggling ring that specializes in high-grade counterfeit US currency. So this time Tucker is the fish out of water and Chan is the policeman comfortable on his own turf.

CANNONBALL RUN CHAN CHIEF INSPECTOR LEE OF THE ROYAL HONG KONG POLICE AND TUCKER CHRIS TUCKER FOR CHAN HONG KONG JACKIE CHAN JAMES CARTER MONEY TALKS RUSH HOUR
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