"Metro" stars Eddie Murphy as a wisecracking but top-notch cop -- only his name is not Axel Foley, he's got a little more facial hair, and he's stationed in Northern, not Southern, California. As "San Francisco's top police hostage negotiator," the actor provides his usual incandescent star power to a vehicle that's not particularly worthy of his talents.
Because of his renewed star wattage from "The Nutty Professor" and the lack of midwinter competition, the film should do respectable opening business, but it's hard not to think that it wouldn't do even better with "48HRS". or "Beverly Hills" in the title.
Murphy plays Scott Roper, who brings his own unorthodox brand of negotiating to tense hostage situations, such as bringing along a dozen donuts. Roper's got the usual problems -- a gambling addiction, a relationship on the ropes, a testy boss (Denis Arndt
) -- and now he's even being saddled with a new partner, McCall (Michael Rapaport), a whiz-kid Harvard graduate who can read lips.
Early in the film, Roper's superior (Art Evans
) is killed by Korda (Michael Wincott
), a vicious jewelry thief. Korda is later involved in a hostage-taking situation of his own. And during his attempted escape, Roper and McCall give chase, resulting in a spectacular sequence involving a runaway cable car in which seemingly half the autos in San Francisco get demolished; between this film and "The Rock", it's hard to imagine that there's anything of the city left.
Although Korda is captured, he still manages to wreak havoc, hiring his cousin to go after Roper's girlfriend (she has succumbed to his charms once more). When that plan goes awry, Korda escapes from prison and attempts to finish the job himself.
Thomas Carter's film is a fairly straightforward, intense cop thriller, enlivened by Murphy's frequent touches of humor. The uneasy blend between action and comedy is only partially successful, with both the film and its lead performer torn between "Dirty Harry"-style fierceness and "Beverly Hills Cop" hijinks. The plotting is strictly formulaic, with the hackneyed romantic subplot particularly egregious. Screenwriter Randy Feldman
, no stranger to the genre ("Tango & Cash"), doesn't exactly provide sparkling dialogue, although he does have the chief bad guy comfort an underling by saying: "It's not your fault you're stupid." The best writing comes in the brief sequences where Murphy is training his new partner in the art of hostage negotiating.
Murphy doesn't disappoint here. Rapaport, graduating to a big-time studio feature, is sadly underutilized and is allowed to showcase his own idiosyncratic brand of comic timing only sporadically. Carmen Ejogo
, making her American film debut as Murphy's love interest, has the looks and charm to justify his character's leaps of daring to save her. Wincott is a suitably intense and scary villain.
Carter's direction is most effective in the film's many action and chase sequences, which involve the usual copious amounts of people leaping onto the hoods of speeding cars. He's a little too fond of playing tricks on the audience, however. In one scene, he provides a fake-out involving a turning mirror not once, but twice; it was hard to tell if the resulting groans from the audience were relief or derision.
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution
Director Thomas Carter
Producer Roger Birnbaum
Screenplay Randy Feldman
Executive producers Mark Lipsky,Riley Kathryn Ellis
Co-producers George W. Perkins,
Ray Murphy Jr., Randy Feldman
Director of photography Fred Murphy
Editor Peter E. Berger
Music Steve Porcaro
Roper Eddie Murphy
McCall Michael Rapaport
Korda Michael Wincott
Ronnie Tate Carmen Ejogo
Capt. Frank Solis Denis Arndt
Lt. Sam Baffert Art Evans
Earl Donal Logue
Running time --117 minutes
MPAA rating: R