SAN FRANCISCO - The last time we saw LAPD Detective James Carter and Chinese Chief Inspector Lee, in “Rush Hour 2,” they had foiled the bad guys and were headed to New York for a Knicks game.
Six years later, the comedic crime-fighters are back for “Rush Hour 3,” in theaters Friday. The movie opens with Chris Tucker’s Carter directing traffic in L.A. and Jackie Chan’s Lee in town with Ambassador Han (Tzi Ma) for a meeting of the World Criminal Court. An assassination attempt on the ambassador will soon have Carter and Lee in Paris, where they do battle with a Chinese crime ring.
Nine years after the first “Rush Hour,” fans already wonder if they can look forward to “RH 4.”
“Who knows?” said director Brett Ratner. “If the movie is a huge success and people are going in droves to the theater, the studio says, ‘We’re making another one.’ They’re writing the check.”
Ratner, 37, directed the three “Rush Hour” installments.
The partnership between Ratner and Tucker began in the early 1990s, when Tucker was a regular on HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam.”
Tucker said rapper Heavy D hired him in 1994 to appear in the video “Nuttin’ but Love,” directed by Ratner.
“I was thinkin’ it was gonna be some black director, and here was this white, Jewish guy,” Tucker said. “He looked like a playboy, sort of, and I’m like, ‘What’s wrong with this dude?’ I said to him, ‘I want you to get the funniest takes,’ and he said, ‘Don’t worry about it.’ ”
Tucker made $1,500 for the shoot but was still short his rent money, so he asked Ratner for $500 more. Ratner sent him a check.
“He did a great job on the video, first of all, and then he sent me extra money,” said Tucker. “So, then it came to ‘Money Talks.’ I was executive producer on this movie, and the director we had on it, I sorta pushed him out the door because he didn’t understand improvisation.
“Brett was one of the guys who came in to do the movie, and I said, ‘I know you, man, from the video.’ And I knew he was best friends with (‘Def Comedy Jam’ executive producer) Russell Simmons. He knew black people. I knew he knew where I came from.”
“Yeah, we were meant to meet,” Tucker said. “The thing about Brett here is that he’s got a lot of gifts, and he gets the best people to work with him.”
As for Tucker, Ratner said, “He’s the best. Russell is my best friend, and I watched hundreds of auditions for ‘Def Comedy Jam,’ and I saw this guy actually at his audition, and when Heavy mentioned him (for the music video), I said, ‘Oh, my God, he was the funniest guy at ‘Comedy Jam.’
“If you watch that video now, it’s still funny. He was so good in it. And I think Chris was impressed that I picked the right takes. … It was definitely a blessing, because we work great together,” Ratner said. “We come from a generation that grew up watching ‘Beverly Hills Cop.’ ... We have the same interests and love kung fu movies. I said to Chris, ‘Do you like Jackie Chan?’ and he said, ‘Of course I love Jackie Chan, are you kidding me? It’s like (Robert) De Niro and (Martin) Scorsese are from the same background, and so when they do a gangster movie, it’s so real. When we do a buddy-cop movie, we grew up watching those movies, and we have good instincts. We know what works and what doesn’t.”
“I take my real emotions and put them on film, instead of me just reading lines off of paper,” said Tucker. “That’s why I think ‘Rush Hour’ was so successful, because it was coming from a real place. Our relationship is still like that.”
Ratner chuckled. “When Chris walked out of the room after that first meeting, Jackie said, ‘I like that Chris Tucker, but I don’t understand a word he’s saying.’ I said, ‘Don’t worry, Jackie.’ That’s when I knew they were going to be brilliant.”
“We still don’t understand each other,” Tucker said with a shrug.