According to director Brett Ratner, Rush Hour is an attempt to revitalise
the martial arts movie genre, with a combination of Eastern action and Western
comedy, using as a template his favourite Enter the Dragon with Bruce Lee.
Since Bruce Lee was unavailable, he opted for Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker
to deliver the comic element and composer Lalo Schifrin to compose the score.
Schifrin is no stranger to American- produced martial arts spectaculars,
having previously scored Enter the Dragon.
Schifrin's score is a colourful blend of Chinese music and funky urban grooves.
The CD fires off with a dynamic, hard-edged, reminiscent of Schifrin's 70's
style main theme spiced with exotic Chinese instrumentation, guitars, tam-tam
crashes, layered-upon-layer driving beat. This enjoyable theme is not visited
very often in the subsequent tracks, except in a more elaborated version
in the final track, but is used as a template for the action themes used
throughout the score.
The composer carefully balances the oriental elements in his music with western
motifs, producing an entertaining mixture. The action tracks are thrilling
and vibrant, based upon eastern orchestrations, percussions and rattling
synths, and dominate the largest part of the score. This doesn't mean that
the score lacks a sentimental touch though! This is very subtly introduced
by "Soo Yung's Theme", a delicate and sensitive piece of music, flavoured
with eastern winds, synthesisers and orchestra that provide the track with
a touch of magnificence, especially towards the end. There are even tracks
of pure Chinese music (at least the western idea of what Chinese music is).
These are quite predictable and unoriginal on their own, but well suited
in the overall context of the movie. Some slow, atonal passages make their
appearance, such as in "$50 million Ransom", building up a sense of suspense.
They also act as break from the continuous action.
It is an enjoyable score, containing many highlights and fun moments. It
never becomes really boring, except in the pure Chinese tracks
if you don't have a taste for Chinese music. Schifrin's hippiness is displayed
in all its glory in this score.