The Films of Brett Ratner
Rush Hour (September 18/07)
The first pairing of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker, Rush Hour casts the duo as mismatched cops who must begrudgingly team up after a diplomat's 11-year-old daughter is kidnapped. Director Brett Ratner's light-hearted sensibilities prove to be an ideal match for Jim Kouf and Ross LaManna's brisk screenplay, and there's little doubt that both Chan and Tucker have been ideally cast in their respective roles. Tucker smartly resists the temptation to play his character as an over-the-top loudmouth, while Chan does a nice job of beefing up the movie's action sequences with his expectedly balletic physical hijinks. The increasingly convoluted storyline does put a damper on things, however, as Chan and Tucker's free-wheeling shenanigans are forced to take a backseat to some seriously uninteresting and flat-out hackneyed plot developments, yet there's little doubt that - for the most part - Rush Hour manages to coast on the palpable chemistry between the two leads (and it's certainly difficult not to get a kick out of the presence of such able performers as Tom Wilkinson, Chris Penn, and Philip Baker Hall within supporting roles).
The Family Man
Rush Hour 2
After the Sunset (February 10/08)
As befits a Brett Ratner film, After the Sunset comes off as an affable yet thoroughly hollow effort that primarily coasts on the ample charisma of its actors - with the end result a flick that's entertaining enough, certainly, but nevertheless instantly forgettable. Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek star as Max and Lola, a pair of romantically-entwined jewel thieves whose retirement is interrupted by the sudden appearance of their FBI-agent nemesis (Woody Harrelson's Stan Lloyd). Screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg have infused After the Sunset with a breezy sensibility that proves an ideal fit for Ratner's glossy directorial choices, though the increasingly superficial vibe does become awfully take as the movie progresses (ie at a certain point, one begins to crave something of substance). The weird, almost homoerotic friendship that develops between Max and Stan undoubtedly plays a significant role in the movie's mild success, as both Brosnan and Harrelson are incredibly effective in their admittedly underwritten characters. The heist that closes the picture is relatively compelling, although - in the hands of a more talented filmmaker - After the Sunset surely could've (and should've) played out as more than just a fluffy time-killer.
X-Men: The Last Stand (May 24/06)
There's been a lot of pre-release hubbub swirling around the hiring of Brett Ratner for X-Men: The Last Stand's directorial duties, something that's due in no small part to Bryan Singer's bang-up job with the first two installments in this ongoing series. Both X-Men and its sequel, X2: X-Men United, stand as superb examples of summer films done right, though neither really holds up all that well in any other context (they're fun, sure, but that's about the extent of it). X-Men: The Last Stand generally comes off as a natural extension of the world established by Singer, particularly in terms of the film's visuals; Ratner, infamous for his exceedingly bland sense of style, apes the look and feel of Singer's previous efforts within the series (it's entirely likely that certain viewers won't be aware of the change until the end credits). Ratner's inability to appropriately juggle the many, many characters and their respective plotlines results in a distinctly unfocused vibe, and it's that lack of cohesion that ultimately transforms X-Men: The Last Stand into an entertaining but thoroughly uneven piece of work. The story revolves around the conflict that arises following the introduction of a drug that evidently cures mutants of their respective "defects," as Magneto (Ian McKellen) begins formulating a plan to violently protest the very existence of the medication. It's up to the X-Men, including Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), Storm (Halle Berry), and Beast (Kelsey Grammer), to put a stop to Magneto's nefarious scheme. If nothing else, viewers should be thankful that Ratner and screenwriters Simon Kinberg and Zak Penn have resisted the impulse to pack X-Men: The Last Stand with one overblown action sequence after another - which is especially impressive when you consider that the three are collectively responsible for some of the noisiest movies in recent years (ie Mr. & Mrs. Smith, XXX: State of the Union, Rush Hour 2, etc, etc). The epic battle that occupies the majority of the film's third act is, likewise, surprisingly engaging and fairly easy to follow - though Ratner does occasionally go overboard with the shaky camerawork. But what sets X-Men: The Last Stand apart from its tedious summer brethren are the performances, which are almost uniformly excellent (Halle Berry is, as usual, the weakest link here). Returning actors such as Jackman, McKellen, and Aaron Stanford (as the fire-wielding Pyro) bring precisely the sort of depth that viewers have come to expect, while newcomers like Kelsey Grammer and Vinnie Jones infuse the film with sporadic bursts of energy and humor (something that's particularly true of Jones' scene-stealing turn as Juggernaut). Though lacking in character development and anything even resembling emotional resonance (despite the deaths of several series veterans), X-Men: The Last Stand is an acceptable - albeit mindless - sequel that should placate fans of the series.
Rush Hour 3
The Rush Hour series comes to a close (hopefully) with this inert and entirely needless installment, in which stars Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker are put through the paces of an overblown and downright desperate attempt at recapturing the energetic charm of the original. This time around, cops Lee (Chan) and Carter (Tucker) must travel to Paris after old friend Consul Han (Tzi Ma) is gunned down by Chinese mobsters. There's virtually nothing within Rush Hour 3 that works; screenwriter Jeff Nathanson offers up a stale storyline that's exacerbated by the unreasonably slow pace, while the film's fight sequences come off as hopelessly bland and surprisingly dull. Brett Ratner's stilted directorial choices ensure that the loose, free-wheeling vibe he's obviously striving for remains just out of reach, and Rush Hour 3 consequently possesses all the spontaneity of a daytime soap. Chan's expectedly stiff turn isn't even remotely as problematic as Tucker's obscenely broad performance, as the actor shouts and mugs his way through the entirety of the movie's protracted running time. And although the climactic battle is admittedly kind of effective, it's simply not enough to excuse the worthlessness of almost everything that precedes it.
Directed by Brett Ratner, Tower Heist follows Ben Stiller's Josh Kovacs as he and a ragtag band of disgruntled employees plot to rob their felonious boss (Alan Alda's Arthur Shaw) of the untold millions stashed within his penthouse apartment - with the gang's efforts assisted by a streetwise criminal named Slide (Eddie Murphy). Filmmaker Ratner has infused the early part of Tower Heist with a slick, mindlessly entertaining feel that proves impossible to resist, with the affable atmosphere heightened by an eclectic supporting cast that includes, among others, Matthew Broderick, Casey Affleck, and Gabourey Sidibe. And although the irresistible premise keeps things interesting for a while, Tower Heist suffers from an overly episodic midsection that's been suffused with one time-wasting, pointless sequence after another (eg Slide forces his cohorts to steal $50 worth of merchandise from a local mall) - with the progressively erratic vibe inevitably wreaking havoc on the movie's already-tenuous pace. It is, as such, not surprising to note that one's interest in or enthusiasm for the title heist is virtually non-existent by the time it finally rolls around, with the expected complications that ensue lending this stretch a drawn-out and increasingly tedious feel (ie it's far more frenetic and action-heavy than necessary). Murphy's engaging, boisterous turn quickly establishes itself as the one consistently bright spot within the proceedings, although, perhaps inevitably, the actor's strong work is ultimately canceled out by the film's otherwise unremarkable atmosphere.