Unfiltered Chris Tucker is dangerous for patients with high blood pressure. The fast-talking, slang-spewing young comic with the voice pitched somewhere between that of Butterfly McQueen and Mr. Bill does not brake for children, animals, or fussbudgets who don’t fully appreciate his exaggerated hood-speak or his killer impersonations of stereotypical hustlers, dealers, drag queens, and other identifiable urban fauna. Whether these caricatures are a top-quality use of his talents is, in the long run, up for debate; what’s clear is that Tucker, at the larval age of 26, is famous for his motormouth. Moviegoers got their first jolt of it five years ago in ”House Party 3,” in a small appearance as a party promoter that carried far more voltage than his few minutes on screen might suggest. But with the guy’s juice cranked so high, proper movie-project wiring is crucial to prevent audience circuit overload.
Which is what’s so great about ”Rush Hour”: What might have been just a copycat action-comedy hybrid — part ”Lethal Weapon”- and ”48 HRS.”-influenced odd-couple cop-buddy caper, part synthetic Hong Kong chop and kick — may instead herald the start of a beautiful friendship and a rewarding Hollywood franchise between Tucker and veteran martial-arts showman Jackie Chan. Tucker plays a cocky Los Angeles Police Department goof-up (insert your own LAPD joke here) shunted off to a booby-prize job distracting visiting Hong Kong cop Chan from his L.A. assignment to track down the kidnapped daughter of a Chinese diplomat (the FBI wants to handle the case alone). And his parody swagger, his caffeinated cockiness, is perfectly, wittily challenged by a truly great (and invitingly funny) martial artist — who can barely speak English! Chan’s cultural references couldn’t be farther from Tucker’s jive — and both benefit: Who else could get away with greeting a massive black barkeep in a gambling joint (taking American conversational cues from his streetwise host) with “Whassup, my nigga?”