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Pet Sins September 2001

Rush Hour 2

Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker of the original Rush Hour return as Inspector Lee and Detective Carter in this 2001 release from New Line Cinema. Building on the success of its predecessor, Rush Hour 2 is expected to draw the summer crowds. Rush Hour 2 picks up where Rush Hour leaves off. Detectives Carter and Lee go to Hong Kong for a vacation. Unfortunately for Carter, who only wants a vacation, Lee gets pulled into a new case concerning Hong Kong crime boss Ricky Tan (John Lone) who is suspected of murdering 2 U.S. customs agents. Zhang Ziyi (of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) plays Hu Li, a lieutenant of Ricky Tan. Former Puerto Rican beauty queen Roselyn Sanchez plays Isabella Molina, a U.S. Secret Service agent investigating the case.

Rush Hour 2 contains a rare portrayal of a black-Asian family with kids in tow (such was not seen on the big screen since One Night Stand). Don Cheadle makes a cameo appearance as Kenny, an African American who runs a Chinese soul food restaurant with his Cantonese wife (Audrey Quock). Interestingly, Kenny is someone who speaks Cantonese and operates by a Chinese code of conduct. Don Cheadle speaks fluent Cantonese in his dialogeus. A Cantonese speaker who saw the movie rates Don Cheadle's Cantonese as "very good"

Zhang Ziyi, who did brilliantly in the flowery acrobatic scenes of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, fails to deliver in Rush Hour 2. American audiences will rate her highly because she is a "pretty" yellow young woman who can kick high. [Side note: I interviewed a few Chinese men, and all of them consider Zhang only mildly pretty]

Zhang's training as a dancer lends her the flexibility and strength needed to execute traditional martial arts sequences and acrobatic wire-fu feats on CTHD. However, she falls short in the gritty, down-and-dirty street-fighting style required of her character in Rush Hour 2.

Zhang tries hard, perhaps too hard, in her action scenes, and that, unfortunately, shows her amateur status. For example, Zhang swings her arm widely when she knocks Chris Tucker out with a pistol butt. To the knowing eye, a fighter's extravagant movements are a sign of a novice's lack of control and lack of skill. Sanchez, on the other hand, smoothly executes the same move with little effort.

Action scenes aside, Zhang also does not have the maturity and gravity which befits her role as a high ranking gangster. Her contemptuous looks fail to imply a seasoned gangster's nonchalance, and seem to disguise a lack of confidence. She pauses and breathes heavily after executing any technique that requires effort. If this was a move intended to heighten the drama of the violence, it only served to give the impression that Zhang is not sure of her techniques.

Sanchez's performance as Isabella Molina is far more self-assured and confident. Although Molina has few action scenes, I'll rate Sanchez higher than Zhang on the action actor scale for her well-toned muscles and measured performance.

This rating of Zhang's action scenes is not a judgment of her as an actress. Zhang has certainly garnered well-deserved praises for her performances in earlier Chinese films. Now that America is fascinated with Zhang, it seems only a matter of time before we see her in more American films. I fear that Hollywood will not be able to utilize the real talents of this worthy actress, and confine her to typical roles for Asian women (playing love interest to white men).