Directed by Tom Dey
Yea! Hollywood heard the clamoring of mainstream America and has granted the cinema-going public another buddy cop movie.
OK. So no grassroots movement ever formed, but we got another one anyway. Thankfully, Showtime is mostly good fun and serves, at least in part, as a spoof of all those buddy cop movies that preceded it.
By the Numbers
This time around, the highly contrived plot surrounds a bad-boy cop, Mitch Preston (Robert DeNiro, Heat), who shoots the TV camera off the shoulder of a reality show photographer getting in the way of a drug bust. Because of his actions, Mitch finds himself faced with an ultimatum: Either endure a $10 million lawsuit from the TV network or accept a starring role in a new muckraking reality TV show based on the exploits of true-life coppers. (This is Hollywood logic, folks.)
Of course, the police department sees the TV show as a way to redeem itself in the eyes of a skeptical public and forces the option on the unwilling detective.
Naturally, the producer of the show, Chase Renzi (Rene Russo, Get Shorty), wants to "sex it up" and needs a foil for Mitch's deadpan presence. Enter Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy, Bowfinger), a wannabe actor who sucked as a waiter and instead became a cop to pay the bills between auditions and "semi-independent" motion picture productions.
To his credit, the pace and the attitude of the movie always picks up when Murphy is on the screen and it's good to see him back in form after slumming as Doctor Doolittle and the Nutty Professor.
DeNiro is also proving to be a capable comedic actor and his choices have been good so far. (Two of his efforts, Meet the Parents and Analyze This, both have sequels on the way.)
Together, DeNiro and Murphy elevate Showtime above the riff-raff of buddy cop/copper comedies.
While DeNiro's character may be a bit too predictable (he's the cop with an attitude and a bad fashion sense who spends his free time making pottery as a form of therapy after a sloppy divorce), he still squeezes the laughs for what they're worth. Thankfully, the screenplay (concocted by a team of four writers, half of which contributed to director Tom Dey's other effort, Shanghai Noon) doesn't try to soften up Mitch with a romantic entanglement involving Chase. Instead, it dangles the possibility but never bothers to follow through.
Once the dynamic duo is cast, it doesn't take long for the movie to find its nemesis, Vargas Pedro Damian (Ken Hudson Campbell, Coyote Ugly). When this bad guy's not soaking up beverages surrounded by beautiful women in his posh Cuban-themed club, he's out literally tearing down houses in the slums of L.A. with a new super-duper machine gun.
The gun's a clumsy-looking contraption with a laser pointer for those challenged by hitting the side of a barn with a bulldozer. This gun is quite the contraption, but it sounds like a huge, industrial-strength staple gun. It's also a convenient excuse for some Lethal Weapon-type violence.
Yep. Three guys with three of those guns, and BOOM, an entire house is leveled after a spurt of rapid-fire noisemaking that's loud enough to wake the dead.
Small Screen Ambitions
Reinforcing the lighthearted nature of this farce is a surprisingly self-effacing and effective cameo role by William Shatner as himself. He offers up some pointers to Mitch and Trey on how to be the next T.J. Hooker (the TV copper Shatner played back in the ‘80s), complete with eyebrow raising, car hood sliding, and smack talking.
Oddly enough, though, Shatner's appearance and the focus on reality-based TV shows somehow compromise the film's big screen ambitions. Overall, it's the kind of material that might be better suited for cable TV than the silver screen.
Also to the film's detriment, a lot of the action is strictly paint-by-the-numbers cops-and-robbers mayhem and the villain lacks craftiness and subtlety. When Mitch and Trey confront Vargas with one of his heavy-duty bullets while he's enjoying libations at his spiffy club, he does nothing to feign innocence or ignorance. His is a shallow character there simply to propel the newly-minted TV celebrities into action.
Dey should be thankful he got DeNiro and Murphy to prop up the material. They make the comedic elements work well and that gives the film enough gas for an enjoyable ride.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.