Courtesy Photo
Directed by Thomas Carter

Starring Eddie Murphy, Michael Rapaport, Carmen Ejogo & Michael Wincott.


Opened: January 17, 1997 | Rated: R

After realizing that Eddie Murphy's new cop movie is not "Beverly Hills Cop IV" but something worse -- being far too long on action and far too short on laughs -- I began trying to salvage this paticular trip to the theater.

What were the things I liked about "Metro," in which Murphy plays a police hostage negotiator in San Francisco? I count two.

First, there is a raucous chase scene involving an out-of-control cable car that sends tourists and automobiles flying every which way. This scene requires an extraordinary ability to suspend disbelief since, as most Northern Californians know, a penny on the tracks derails one of these things.

Second, director Thomas Carter ("Swing Kids") repeatedly builds fierce tension without climax, just to toy with the audience. The best of these scenes coming with heavy build-up, a shaky camera and swelling music as Murphy's girlfriend opens her medicine cabinet mirror (the music builds), takes out her perfume (louder, louder) closes the mirror and...nothing happens at all. There's no one standing behind her, which is what any seasoned movie fan would expect.

Even better, he does it again when she puts the perfume back.

But "Metro" is two hours long and trifling with the audience here and there doesn't pardon the fallacies that plague the rest of the picture.

The fact that Murphy plays a hostage negotiator doesn't come into play at all after a couple establishing scenes with masked baddies holding whimpering blonde bank employees. Neither does the standard "new partner" plot device, a role filled by Michael Rapaport ("Mighty Aphrodite"). Murphy is just a cop who plays by his own rules, which is nothing new.

He has a gambling habit that serves only to give him something to argue about with his girlfriend (British actress Carmen Ejogo), who exists for the sole purpose of being kidnapped so the film can have a nice climax at an abandon ship yard, resplendent with monstrous machinery and exploding 55-gallon drums.

"Metro" feels like Carter borrowed a paint-by-numbers set from action director Michael Bey ("Bad Boys," "The Rock") and filled in only the explosions and car chases. But even those are sloppy -- especially to Bay Area movie goers. In the aforementioned chase scene one of those tourist-toting fake cable cars on wheels stands in for the real thing and the wheels are clearly visible in multiple shots. Also hard to miss are the faces of the stunt men standing in for Murphy and Rapaport.

There is a thread of a plot -- something vague about a jewelry thief (Michael Wincott, "The Crow") who is captured by Murphy after another prolonged chase, only to escape a couple days later from the prison laundry. Um, folks -- uncharged prisoners in city hall holding cells don't work in the laundry. Hello?

After staging a huge comeback last year with "The Nutty Professor," "Metro" is a bad career move for Murphy. He's fine as the cop and he gets in the requisite of wisecracks at the end of each reel, but this movie is sub-standard cop fare at best.

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