Review: Rush Hour 3 (2007)

Composer: Lalo Schifrin

Label: Varese Sarabande

Catalogue Nr.: 302 066 834 2

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Six years have passed since Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker have last kicked and smart-assed their way through the lines of the Chinese triad crime syndication and through some fun culture clash jokes in Rush Hour 2 (2001). Part 3 is out now and the concept that theoretically should be worn out by now reveals itself as effective as always. This time, Jackie's inspector Lee and Tucker's police officer (he's been degraded since) Carter have to travel to Paris in order to find and protect the owner of a secret list of triad bosses that could help the police to seriously harm the powerful syndicate. Of course, the triads are not amused and thus they want to find and kill the owner of the list themselves but the intrigue really goes beyond the syndicate and reaches up into the high political realms of the world court. Actually, the story is not so much the strong point of the film (no shit!). The European setting creates some fun moments, especially with French cops (watch out for Roman Polanski's fingers!) and French taxi drivers (and all humour is done in a respectful way, so French people really must not fear any unfunny discrimination). The good form and charm of its cast will certainly help the box office juices flowing. Like it's predecessors, Rush Hour 3 is a fun buddy cop action movie and an undemanding way to 'kill' some time.

The score:

(NOTE: as this analysis of the score closely follows the film's plot it may contain potential SPOILERS! Continue at your own risk)

I really feel glad for Lalo Schifrin, for whom the successful franchise may turn out to be the last moment of wide attention he might get, which is sad because his music just seems to get better and better over the course of these movies. As it is the case with the movies, his music basically follows the concept of the previous instalments with heavy influences from his Enter The Dragon score but in each part Schifrin masters the fusion of these elements with the traditional symphonic orchestra better and better. In Rush Hour 3, this fusion creates the most enjoyable, most coherent and most satisfying score of he entire series and thus the concept is thankfully far away from wearing itself off too much. It's simply too enjoyable and even saves the movie from time to time during some lackluster action scenes earlier in the movie. The Rush Hour theme returns as well. Few bits and pieces of the theme can be found here and there plus a hip-hop kind-of remix at the end (the less is said about that the better). Apart from the main theme, there are one or two little moments from the first score that are like musical cameos. There is also a new, low-key villain motif for Kenji, the new bad guy which consists of rattling exotic percussion and a darkly rising figure for Chinese string instruments as well as low playing classical strings. But once again, Rush Hour 3's score does not rely so much on themes but more on some neat action music.

The movie starts with the opening helicopter flyover-shot over L.A.'s skyline that became common for the series as Lalo Schifrin's re-arrangement of his main theme for jazz guitar and piano chords at the lower end. In contrast to that, the appearance of the consul Han (yes, the one from the first film) is graced by Schifrin with a gently noble statement for horns and strings as the members of "The World Court" are gathering. Some moments of sharp suspense are lurking in, highlighting the appearance of a killer who's aiming for Han. Mayhem breaks loose as the assassin fires and Lee is going after him. A foot chase follows with some quick cuts and Jackie Chan trying to do some weak parkour. It's nothing ground-breaking action-wise, but Schifrin helps to carry the lengthy sequence with his music. The exciting action track "Chasing The Assassin" is easily among the best action cues of 2007, I kid you not! It has everything! A lot of punch, insane speed and an incredible orchestral depth. Especially the virtuous use of percussion makes the track exciting and there comes a building ostinato for the whole orchestra in the middle of the track which is just too cool. I like all that so much because this is really one of the few massive action tracks of the year that does not just throws everything brainlessly together to rely on a wall of sound instead of dept. You can actually hear a harp playing clusters of collapsing tones and you can make out individual instruments. Fans of good action music will get a kick out of that whole cue. At the end of the track, when Lee is facing the killer and finds out it's bad guy Kenji, you will hear the new villain motif for the first time.

"Su Yung Returns/Dojo Arrival" starts whimsical with a soft flute statement and strings for Su Yung (yes, the now grown up girl from the first movie) and offers a re-arrangement of the funny Chinese music from the first score's track "Won Ton For Two" at the end when Lee and Carter enter a karate school. Here, they have to do some investigation but are told to wait for the grand master. And they are getting a really grand master with "Giant Kung Fu" while Schifrin plays at the humour of the scene with low tuba chords and Chinese string instruments and percussion in a fast but very playful and light-hearted way. A "Hospital Gunfight" begins with a variation on the Rush Hour main theme's darker middle section before things become suspenseful with low, high-pitched strings and low brass layers announcing triad killers who come for Consul Han to finish their bloody business. The action part of the second half of the track is more on the gritty side with a slow ostinato for low brass, Herrmann-esque strings, whirling woodwinds and muted trumpet accentuations. Another play on the main theme follows in "Hiding Su Yung /  Two Americans In Paris" with a restrained, gentle horn performance of the melody followed by clichéd accordion highlighting Carter and Lee's arrival in Paris. It may be clichéd but its a fun musical moment nevertheless and really does not come unexpected. Accordion haters don't have to worry as this is the only cue of the score that has this instrument. "Dragon Lady" plays a bit with the horn fanfare part of the main theme and uses it as an action motif over a cue that is related to "Hospital Gunfight" orchestration-wise.

Another real action highlight follows from Schifrin, who layers a driving, funky rock-pop beat with punches from the orchestra as Lee and Carter are chased by "Bikers". Strings are whirling and trumpets are screaming all to that beat and there is a lot more going on which would just take too much room here to describe it. Instead, let me just point out again the incredible orchestral depth of the track which gives this track a lot of personality and excitement. From here on, the album comes to some weaker but nevertheless interesting moments. Lee and Carter are loosing the race against the motorcycle triads, who take them down "In The Sewers". The cue is basically the second half of the previous cue which is more on the suspenseful, dark low-key side with the dark motif for Kenji lurking through from time to time. Suspense is also the keyword in "Reynard's Place" where Schifrin takes a repeated high figure for piano over a layer of strings for a typical conversation scene. There is more suspense intermixed with gentle, romantic moments for strings as Carter is trying to have fun "With Genvieve", a mysterious French lady who is important to the whole complot. Flutes are carrying over the romance to a short, insane action burst at the end. "Shi Shen" has more depressing tones at the beginning for the ewi as Lee and Carter find out that Kenji kidnapped Su Yung and threatens to kill her if they don't deliver Genvieve, so they arrange a little "Eiffel Tower Meeting". Kenji's motif is playing low, yet aggressively as a suspenseful, rising prelude with accentuation by horns to the percussive "Swordfigth" action scene between Kenji and Lee. The use of percussion again is simply virtuous and done with great detail without loosing any mass or punch. Fast-paced, low piano chords, crazy string writing and muted trumpets add further accents to the insane fight while the ending in particular is very cool when Schifrin really goes over the top with the percussion.

Lee and Kenji are then falling off the tower which is followed by Schifrin with a high note, fast string ostinato that carrys over into "Farewell To Kenji" where the strings are joined by the harp to accompany the villains fall to death. More string whirling follows as Lee is trying to save himself from the deadly fall. Of course with the death of the villain, the film can't be over just yet and thus "The Return Of The Triads" offers Schifrin one more chance to do that insane low-piano, strings and horn action firework as Carter and Lee kick triad asses before they "Parachute Down" the tower. Schifrin really goes over the top here especially with the strings before ending in a major statement of the main theme as both heroes land safely. A hip re-arrangement of the theme done by Ryan Schifrin and Ruy Folguera plays over the end credits but while the album remains without lyrics there were some stupid rap-like lyrics added for the film version. Needless to say the piece is better off without them interrupting the Schifrin fun that is going on between the beats and drum loops. No matter what is done with his tune, it somehow always comes off enjoyable.

Review by Andreas Creutzburg

 

RATING:

Score as heard in the film: 83%

Score as heard on CD: 75%

TOTAL: 79%

 

The presentation:

First of all, I want to officially thank Robert Townson or whoever was responsible for removing the lyrics from the remix and instead let those Schifrin juices flow! Now that I have said that, there is really nothing negative to be said about the album. It has great sound quality (much better than the album of the first score), nearly the complete score (at least I can't remember any crucial moments that are missing), neat artwork from the film and a booklet with short liners from Ratner plus lots of colour pics from the movie as well as a full credit of the orchestra musicians. The cues are in film order and still flow very well, so the arrangement is very good too. Albums like this are showing that Varese has really improved greatly as far as presentation is concerned. I really hope this is their new quality standard now.

Presentation by the Label: 89%

 

Summary:

Although I have been exposed to Schifrin's music since I first heard the Mission:Impossible theme, I never really, fully discovered the man until his scores for Rush Hour (1998) and Rush Hour 2 (2001). This time around, Schifrin just shows that he was able to take the common musical formula of the series to further improve it. He does not really reinvent anything but plays with what is there and makes the whole thing much more consistent and enjoyable on its own. Add to that a number of standout action tracks like "Chasing The Assassin" and "Bikers" and you have one of the most enjoyable and diverse action scores of the year. Schifrin's ability to add texture and orchestral depth to the action helps to increase the listener's pleasure even more. The only drag comes in the middle when Schifrin is forced to follow the shaping of the rather dull story with suspense instead of force. If these low-key tracks would have been similarly entertaining and clever as the action, the score could have easily reached way beyond an 80% rating. It's still a very cool action score and I fear this may also be the last actioner from Lalo Schifrin, who obviously had a lot of fun with this one. And the fun he had is likely to carry over to the listener of this album!

 

Tracklisting:

01. Main Title - Rush Hour Theme (01:27)
02. The World Court (02:10)
03. Chasing the Assassin (04:19)
04. Su Yung Returns/Dojo Arrival (02:11)
05. Giant Kung Fu (02:34)
06. Hospital Gunfight (02:47)
07. Hiding Su Yung/Two Americans In Paris (01:49)
08. Dragon Lady (01:55)
09. Bikers (02:48)
10. In the Sewers (02:52)
11. Reynard�s Plea (01:39)
12. With Genvieve (03:10)
13. Shi Shen (02:17)
14. Eiffel Tower Meeting (04:27)
15. Swordfight (04:32)
16. Farewell to Kenji (02:35)
17. The Return of the Triads (02:35)
18. Parachute Down (02:14)
19. Rush Hour Theme Remix
(02:35)