Showtime (12)

Review by Jack Foley

THE mis-matched cop comedy/thriller gets another outing in this amiable but extremely disappointing new film starring Robert De Niro and Eddie Murphy.

When done well, the scenario can be quite refreshing (as in last year's Rush Hour 2, or the Lethal Weapon series), but in the case of Showtime, it feels like a cynical ploy to attract some quick dollars by a film company which really ought to know better.

The set-up on this occasion centres around De Niro's world-weary, cynical lone detective, Mitch Preston, who is forced to take on Murphy's fast-talking, but hopelessly useless cop Trey Sellars after he takes his Dirty Harry routine too far and shoots a TV news crew's camera. The catch is, both detectives are to be used to front a new, fly-on-the-wall cop-umentary about the lives of LAPD's finest in order to boost the ailing company's ratings.

Sent in to co-ordinate is Rene Russo's feisty, no-nonsense TV exec, while William Shatner crops up as himself, to offer some policing 'tips' for the Showtime regulars.

Great cast, nice concept, but alas, poor delivery. Whereas Showtime could (and should) have been a winning satire on the mismatched cop genre, it ends up falling into the same trap as most of the worst films it is supposed to be poking fun at. What's more, it feels laboured and pedestrian.

Despite the odd spark of chemistry between Murphy and De Niro, Showtime simply isn't funny enough to warrant much attention. Murphy, in particular, seems shackled by the confines of a 12 certificate, while De Niro simply goes through the motions, occasionally looking bored, and sometimes even embarrassed, while his take on Dirty Harry is likely to have audiences blushing rather than laughing.

Russo looks terrific (when doesn't she?) but comes across annoying, while Pedro Damian's pantomime villain, Vargas, seems like an afterthought; only appearing fleetingly to blow things up and talk in a funny, European accent.

On the action front, director Tom Dey litters the movie with a fair number of explosions and a handful of super-guns, but even these fail to generate the required thrills, coming across as inferior rip-offs of far better movies (which, ironically, starred the two headline acts). The centrepiece, involving an armoured car heist, manages to combine elements of De Niro's Heat and Murphy's Metro without offering anything fresh in the process.

On the plus side, Shatner's well-observed turn as himself provides the movie with some of its funniest moments (especially when relating how TJ Hooker would have done it!), while Murphy (himself a veteran of the mis-matched buddies formula with 48 Hours) is as likable as ever.

But given the talent on show, and the potential from the promising opening moments, you can't help but feel that this is a squandered opportunity which is suffering from a chronic lack of inspiration. A bit of a cop out, really.