DAR Films: The Potential Of Chris Tucker

By @TrueGodImmortal

For a large number of comedians, making it from the standup stage to the big screen is the ultimate measure of success. When you have become a viable star in the film industry, it showcases how far you have come. For many standup comedians, like Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock, Bernie Mac, and others, they've turned their success in standup to successful film careers. One man who seemed to surpass them all at one point was Chris Tucker. It had seemed as if Tucker was essentially working his way through the ranks of Hollywood and into the 20 million dollars a movie lane, a rare feat for a black actor in general, let alone a standup comedian with only a few movies under his belt.  Tucker seemed destined to take over Hollywood and for quite a while.

However, something went wrong. He's been in debt to the IRS with the ill fated black celebrity issue of not paying taxes, and before that he wasn't really working very much in films, TV, or otherwise. What could have happened? Today, we look back at the career of Chris Tucker, his rise to the top, and his ego and stagnation which caused him to fall from the top just as fast as he made it there. Chris Tucker has the most interesting story of any rising star in Hollywood ever. He didn't have a consistent run of successful films, nor did he have a ton of flops to constitute him falling off, he just became inactive after his name was at the peak of popularity. It's honestly odd, but in order to understand this whole concept, we must go back to the humble beginnings. 

After small roles in Meteor Man, House Party 3, and appearances on Hangin With Mr. Cooper and Def Comedy Jam, Chris finally struck gold with a semi starring role in the cult classic film Friday. Now, while this film wasn't a box office breakout hit, it would take on a life of its own after the release. Chris played the role of hilarious yet somehow lovable weed head Smokey, and from that moment on, his career would never be the same. The character of Smokey painted Chris as outlandish, loud, slightly aggressive, and a bit of an asshole. For those familiar with Chris on Def Comedy Jam, it felt like he was playing himself in this role and perhaps that's what made it so believable at the time and a big reason why this film is a classic. Friday changed Chris and his career path, as well as the momentum he would carry as an actor. 

After the big breakout performance in Friday, Chris would stumble slightly in his role as a bodyguard in the movie Panther, before picking up the pace with his role in the underrated film Dead Presidents. Chris allowed himself to be seen in a different light and manner in Dead Presidents and it worked full fledged. While his role in Dead Presidents wasn't a starring role, he made the most of it and instantly his name began to buzz a bit more. It seemed like Chris was well on his way and it was only a matter of time before he got a starring role of his own. After taking 1996 off essentially, which was mostly used to film a few projects, Chris would return in 1997 for his productive year, showcasing the power his role as Smokey had on stepping his career up. 

Alongside Charlie Sheen, Chris shines heavily in the film Money Talks, as he and Charlie have a strange chemistry that doesn't make sense at first, but it tends to work in most instances. This would be my personal favorite role of Chris besides Friday, as he has quotes and hilarious reactions and the inflection in his voice is always good for a laugh. It would not be the only moment that Tucker would shine in 1997, he had two minimal roles in the Fifth Element and Jackie Brown, but he made the most of them. It was around this time that Chris would finally get his big shot at a larger film, as he signed on to work with Jackie Chan in a film called Rush Hour. 

Rush Hour was the start of something big for Chris.... or so we thought. After making over 100 million dollars in the box office, Chris would be on top of the world... or so we thought. Rush Hour is a great comedy and the chemistry of Chan and Tucker were top notch. Of course, Brett Ratner and Chris talked about doing a sequel and we would eventually get one. However, one noticeable issue was that Tucker didn't seem interested in gaining a lot of work after the first Rush Hour. He would sign a contract with New Line Cinema to do 2 more Rush Hour films and would earn 20 million for the 2nd and 25 million for the third plus a percentage of the gross. Unfortunately, soon after Money Talks, Tucker became a reformed Christian and with that, came a bit of distance from his previous roles that made his career. 

While he would do both Rush Hour films, he would turn down roles for Next Friday and Friday After Next. What is telling about this I'd say is that Tucker seemed to bite the hand that fed him. Now, he wasn't obligated to do sequels to Friday, but his refusal and distancing from the franchise was interesting. He turned down various other starring roles in 1998, 1999, and 2000 and began work on Rush Hour 2. Now, usually when you're riding a high with successful films, as a comedian you want to make sure you do a movie per year or at the very least every 2 years. All Chris began doing was Rush Hour films. 1998. 2001. 2007. Nothing else in between. Some have said the rigors of the industry were far too much for him, while others have said he began to believe his own hype. 

Let's be real here: New Line was willing to fork over 20-25 million per movie, but did Chris really deserve it? If Eddie was making 15 million a movie, Denzel making 15 million, Martin making 10 million at best a movie, and countless other black actors, what did Chris do to deserve this amount? Friday? Money Talks? Two moderate hits? Rush Hour? His only big hit? While I'm not opposed to a black actor getting his big check, I also believe that you should maintain working and not become so dependent on one thing. That seems to be what occurred with Chris. He became stagnant in Hollywood and as and actor, and as a result, his stock dropped considerably. His issues with the taxes would become publicly known, even after we saw that he received 45 million for 2 films over 6 years. One could only imagine how Chris might have avoided his troubles if he was more active or if he worked just a tad bit more. It seems the tax issue was what it took to force Chris back into the industry, as he would start doing standup comedy again and appeared in the critically acclaimed film "Silver Linings Playbook". 

The final step in the process of a Chris Tucker comeback came in the form of rumors of a Rush Hour 4 and him appearing in the final Friday film "Last Friday", as well as his own Netflix comedy special. It may be too late for Chris to truly restore his greatness or to ever live up to his potential, but one can hope. The sad part is that Chris Tucker is still one of the biggest comedians we've seen over the last 20 years, but if his work ethic was greater and his decisions were smarter, one would likely have his name with the Martin Lawrences, Eddie Murphys, Chris Rocks, Dave Chappelles, and maybe even the Bernie Macs and Richard Pryors. For Chris, it is safe to say he never really fell off, but it is also safe to say that he was never really ON. He had one successful film franchise, which is more than most comedians can say, but it seems like the only thing he can cling to. There was more potential in Chris Tucker, but perhaps we'll never seen it come to fruition. 



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