20 Years Later, Rush Hour Is Still a Buddy-Cop Gem

In 1998, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker teamed up for an action-comedy that would stand the test of time... and help launch a certain movie review website.

by | September 18, 2018 | Comments


Way back in 1998, Jackie Chan was a big star in Hong Kong and well known to martial arts aficionados around the world, while Chris Tucker was an up-and-coming stand-up comic who had begun to make a name for himself in an eclectic string of independent productions. The two of them were brought together for a little action-comedy called Rush Hour, which opened on September 18, 1998, and one of the most memorable buddy-cop duos ever was born.

The film centers on the retrieval of a Chinese consul’s kidnapped daughter and stars Tucker as a fast-talking LAPD detective who’s tasked with the demeaning job of keeping Chan’s Hong Kong inspector out of the FBI’s hair during the investigation. Of course, the two cops dislike each other at first, but eventually find common ground and work together to rescue the missing girl and close the case.

It’s pretty standard fare for the genre, which by then had already given us iconic pairs like Lethal Weapon‘s Riggs and Murtaugh and Beverly Hills Cop‘s Axel Foley and Billy Rosewood, and the film itself isn’t perfect — cultural stereotypes abound, and a shadow hangs over the whole production in the form of recently #MeToo-ed director Brett Ratner. So what makes it so special, and why does it hold up to the umpteenth rewatch? We’ve got some ideas.


A good chunk of American moviegoers got their first taste of Jackie Chan in 1996, two years before Rush Hour, when Rumble in the Bronx made its way stateside after its theatrical run in Hong kong and kicked off a new wave of martial arts mania in Hollywood. What many of them likely didn’t know was that he technically made his Hollywood debut trying to bear-hug Bruce Lee in the seminal 1973 masterpiece Enter the Dragon (spoiler: bad idea). That film’s director, Robert Clouse, tried to make Chan a star in his own right with 1980’s The Big Brawl, but it flopped, as did another attempt five years later called The Protector. Frustrated by his lack of success breaking into the American market, Jackie went back to Hong Kong, where he continued to make a ton of kickass martial arts comedies. Seriously, if you haven’t seen any of the Project A, Armour of God, or early Police Story movies, you need to get on that ASAP.

The success of Rumble in the Bronx gave Hollywood producers faith that audiences were finally ready to embrace Jackie Chan as a star – moreover, that they were hungry for it – so they smartly locked him down for a buddy-cop flick that played to his strengths: action and comedy. The genre was ripe for a new twist, and Chan’s clever fight choreography and high-flying stuntwork proved irresistible. Rush Hour went on to become his first film to gross over $100 million and helped solidify his status as one of the world’s most exciting, most recognizable big screen heroes.


By the time 1998 rolled around, Chris Tucker had already scored a breakout performance in hit comedy Friday, a scene-stealing appearance in Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, and a memorable cameo in Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, as well as a starring role in Money Talks, the feature debut of Rush Hour director Brett Ratner. While the latter wasn’t particularly well-received, the first three were all sleeper hits, and Tucker was in his prime. Rush Hour came along at just the right moment to take full advantage of his unique brand of humor, and it’s difficult to imagine anyone else who could have taken his place.

While Jackie Chan gets most of his laughs in the film through his trademark physical comedy, Tucker’s reckless cockiness, carefree lack of tact, and uncanny way with words provide some of its funniest and most quotable moments. For a variety of reasons, Tucker hasn’t been particularly active in the decades since the film’s release, but the Rush Hour franchise consistently made good use of his talents – and paid him well for it – so it’s not surprising it’s the one property he was happy to return to time and again. When you find a formula that works, you stick with it. And speaking of which…


Jackie Chan got something of a rare opportunity to play essentially the straight man for once, while Chris Tucker was given free rein to be, well, Chris Tucker. It’s not immediately obvious how that combination must have looked on paper, but we’re glad somebody saw the genius in it. Tucker’s irrepressible manic energy, rapid-fire line delivery, and piercing, high-pitched voice proved to be the perfect foil to Chan’s initially dismissive but increasingly conciliatory demeanor – and all this even before considering the cultural differences between a smooth-talker from urban Los Angeles and a straight-laced supercop from Hong Kong. It’s familiar stuff, sure, but also exceedingly effective in this context, and it only works as well as it does because Chan and Tucker are who they are.

Outside of these well-deployed tropes, you can tell Chan and Tucker are just having a blast with each other, too. It’s no secret that Chan has previously explained he wasn’t a huge fan of Rush Hour partially because he didn’t quite get the humor, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have great chemistry with Tucker, and Chan himself has talked about the bond that formed between them. The film wouldn’t have worked otherwise. If you weren’t convinced by the performances in the film, watch the end-credits bloopers, specifically for the impromptu dance number in the middle of the Foo Chow restaurant fight and Tucker’s failure to speak a Chinese phrase. That’s a bromance if we’ve ever seen one.


Ever since Hollywood stumbled onto the buddy-cop formula (arguably established by Japanese legend Akira Kurosawa’s noir Stray Dog) and mined it for comedy gold, it’s experimented with different combinations: black cop and white cop, human cop and dog cop, adult cop and child, black female cop and… dinosaur? But we’d never seen a duo quite like Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker.

To be fair, Chan and Tucker weren’t the first pair of minority buddy cops to headline a major studio comedy; it wasn’t even the first time we saw an Asian actor as one of the leads. 1995’s fan-favorite Bad Boys featured Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, and Pat “Mr. Miyagi” Morita starred opposite Jay Leno in 1989’s Collision Course. Rush Hour was, however, the first – and, so far, the only – time we saw a black detective team up with an Asian one, and Chan’s role remains one of the highest-profile primary Asian leads in a major Hollywood film franchise. In an era when talks of representation and diversity dominate the media landscape, it’s easy to forget how impactful this kind of casting was in 1998.



Shameless plug? Maybe, but we have to admit we owe a small debt to Rush Hour. Senh Duong, the creator of Rotten Tomatoes, had been a huge Jackie Chan fan since high school, and the idea for RT came to him after he joined the workforce. The primary catalyst was that he wanted to find reviews of the Hong Kong films of Jackie Chan that he loved so much. That was back during the summer of 1998.

Then, as the planned release of Rush Hour, Chan’s first major Hollywood crossover, drew near in August of that year, Senh saw the perfect opportunity to launch the new venture, so he hunkered down for two weeks and coded the very first version of the site. As fate would have it, the film actually got pushed back to September 18, but Senh had gotten the kick in the pants that he needed to push the site live. The rest, of course, is history. Would it all have happened anyway, even if Rush Hour hadn’t been made? We’ll never know, but we’re pretty happy with the way things turned out.

Rush Hour was released September 18, 1998

Tag Cloud

First Look 4/20 NYCC 79th Golden Globes Awards Horror hollywood Biopics Walt Disney Pictures Pride Month laika all-time Britbox FX TLC First Reviews supernatural romance Binge Guide MSNBC Lionsgate South by Southwest Film Festival TV One Bravo Apple TV+ AMC DC streaming service Spring TV CW Seed Fantasy science fiction zero dark thirty movies spider-man The Academy cancelled TV series LGBTQ finale ESPN rotten mutant worst remakes robots Ghostbusters Mudbound biopic Funimation new york composers halloween Superheroe Best and Worst Mary poppins japan crime thriller Lifetime WarnerMedia boxing Character Guide 90s nfl spinoff children's TV E3 sopranos DC Universe video on demand Oscars Calendar Pirates X-Men Netflix Reality posters miniseries cinemax war GLAAD scene in color dramedy Disney Channel Vudu Video Games TCA Awards Sundance TV Star Wars zombies broadcast Ellie Kemper Hulu sequels Universal TV Land Nominations Rom-Com Trailer young adult Super Bowl TBS comiccon A24 dc award winner blockbusters Drama Black Mirror Amazon Prime thriller die hard versus The Walt Disney Company marvel cinematic universe worst movies ABC Signature docudrama game of thrones aapi Opinion AMC Plus movie target crime archives Crackle Marathons Logo toy story japanese CBS TV movies Grammys Action Cartoon Network canceled TV shows tv talk cooking American Society of Cinematographers boxoffice indiana jones mockumentary New York Comic Con reboot critics Crunchyroll streaming GIFs saw OneApp police drama Mary Tyler Moore adventure 20th Century Fox blaxploitation vs. scary movies IMDb TV Year in Review TIFF Oscar book genre black comedy SundanceTV BBC El Rey fast and furious feel good critic resources Musicals spider-verse justice league festival CBS All Access Pacific Islander BET sitcom cancelled legend LGBT GoT Winter TV Television Academy disaster A&E TCA social media aliens National Geographic Amazon Studios President PBS parents summer TV Tubi USA Network a nightmare on elm street TruTV 1990s streamig dragons Paramount Valentine's Day Nickelodeon dogs golden globe awards telelvision Prime Video Tags: Comedy San Diego Comic-Con godzilla Polls and Games Awards latino crime drama Holidays trophy Hear Us Out The Arrangement art house political drama universal monsters heist movie Travel Channel cancelled TV shows Chilling Adventures of Sabrina witnail FOX Lucasfilm criterion Epix news Comedy fresh Amazon Prime Video 71st Emmy Awards HBO Go medical drama 2015 Indigenous know your critic comic books Netflix Christmas movies The Purge scene in color film series hist BBC America Animation docuseries Music 2019 prank Masterpiece TCA 2017 Apple TV Plus Certified Fresh Shudder classics rt labs critics edition Columbia Pictures spain Starz Tomatazos Acorn TV Film Festival ITV directors richard e. Grant Trivia psychological thriller Chernobyl Star Trek international superman popular ViacomCBS Set visit Mindy Kaling Showtime Classic Film Elton John singing competition Box Office Best Actor Turner Classic Movies rom-coms SXSW 2022 HFPA name the review Infographic dexter jurassic park ABC Disney+ Disney Plus HBO Max foreign romantic comedy kong Peacock talk show technology ABC Family marvel comics psycho Wes Anderson Cannes 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards 2017 screenings Trophy Talk Christmas comedies SXSW TV renewals Paramount Plus Baby Yoda james bond TNT travel strong female leads 93rd Oscars Mystery stop motion binge Broadway CNN 2020 Comics on TV kids Sundance true crime cartoon Best Director Heroines satire quibi mission: impossible BBC One Pop WGN rt labs Schedule VH1 Emmy Nominations Sci-Fi batman Pop TV reviews razzies obituary Shondaland pirates of the caribbean gangster DirecTV Neflix Family Nat Geo Toys Anna Paquin joker documentaries spanish language ghosts werewolf 45 trailers Disney streaming service Exclusive Video spy thriller YouTube Red Universal Pictures theme song asian-american Premiere Dates Tokyo Olympics comic book movie anthology serial killer Warner Bros. Martial Arts VOD YouTube high school TCA Winter 2020 Marvel revenge Spike franchise Teen cats what to watch Red Carpet MCU hispanic The CW south america E! 2018 space films adaptation child's play biography Comic-Con@Home 2021 transformers scene in color series halloween tv Syfy king arthur Hollywood Foreign Press Association slasher deadpool casting Podcast Legendary king kong elevated horror canceled Endgame nbcuniversal Kids & Family natural history basketball BAFTA FXX twilight Writers Guild of America obi wan venice summer TV preview nature Instagram Live Hallmark superhero Cosplay Image Comics 2021 mcc Superheroes spanish RT21 Native cancelled television Brie Larson summer preview period drama Fox Searchlight comic book movies screen actors guild kaiju blockbuster black Television Critics Association Pixar hidden camera football action-comedy sports interviews Hallmark Christmas movies Spectrum Originals french video Adult Swim book adaptation Black History Month discovery Western live event Alien olympics rt archives independent doctor who rotten movies we love Country MGM Creative Arts Emmys Watching Series Tumblr History Sony Pictures Stephen King Food Network stoner 94th Oscars sag awards Rocky hispanic heritage month See It Skip It Summer Women's History Month Holiday Emmys Fox News Rocketman indie cults slashers FX on Hulu historical drama NBC 72 Emmy Awards Marvel Studios Extras series green book Sony new star wars movies politics Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Countdown suspense diversity television new zealand VICE cars based on movie Sundance Now ratings Lifetime Christmas movies Photos Best Actress Captain marvel Paramount Pictures Awards Tour Mary Poppins Returns 99% 2016 dreamworks monster movies adenture australia Marvel Television renewed TV shows free movies zombie Fargo SDCC Film dceu 21st Century Fox crossover best Quiz comics 24 frames Interview Winners YA Paramount Network facebook Disney dark Ovation Arrowverse live action festivals Fall TV Amazon APB Focus Features leaderboard Comedy Central Freeform The Witch DGA PlayStation emmy awards streaming movies breaking bad Musical Disney Plus OWN concert stand-up comedy Best Picture 73rd Emmy Awards game show teaser unscripted anime christmas movies scary Sneak Peek mob Pet Sematary Academy Awards documentary BET Awards lord of the rings Star Wars Celebration TCM toronto cops scorecard 007 wonder woman Apple target scene in color TV HBO Tarantino IFC Films NBA USA Song of Ice and Fire Dark Horse Comics Reality Competition comic The Walking Dead Discovery Channel sequel YouTube Premium CMT PaleyFest Geeked Week royal family Turner vampires Esquire golden globes animated jamie lee curtis IFC chucky DC Comics MTV women Thanksgiving ID Rock RT History debate harry potter Avengers Comic Book italian Election