95 minutes. 2002. Rated PG-13
“What are you gonna do, wrap me up in caution tape, Top Cop?”
Mama says: Watch it, you’ll laugh!
The background for this is fun. I’m working in Egypt for a while and the library has a monthly film program at which they show a film once a week based on the monthly theme. Last week, I watched Showtime, a movie directed by Tom Dey, and starring Robert DeNiro and Eddie Murphy. It was the kind of movie I would watch one lazy Saturday afternoon during winter in New England, but instead, I found myself observing Egyptians’ reactions to the drama, the chemistry (or lack thereof) between the two stars, sitting back, relaxing, and chuckling. So I liked the film. I also liked that I could actually watch a film here in Egypt (with Arabic subtitles). While the pace and drama sort of reminded me of a Steven Segal film, it could pass for a funny TV sitcom, too. I love Robert DeNiro’s character portrayals, but I especially remember his portrayals in A Bronx Tale and, most recently, Meet the Fockers.
DeNiro plays a no-nonsense detective, Mitch Preston, who catches a bad break when Officer Trey Sellars (Murphy), who doesn’t know that Mitch Preston is a detective, calls in the police force to help bust what he thinks is a drug deal between the detective and a couple of gang bangers. When the bust goes awry, Trey and Mitch are busted for their role in the bungled sting. Mitch shoots (destroys) a TV camera in the aftermath of the sting and, to avoid charges and make good on his behavior, ends up teaming together with Trey in a reality TV drama called “Showtime.” Mitch Preston is the no-nonsense tough guy detective and Trey Sellars is the sparkling extrovert looking for the limelight and a little glamour, who aspires to be an actor. So when the two begin their work on the streets of LA, the chemistry is set for an explosion.
Despite their differences, the two tolerate each other’s personality, slowly learning what makes the other one “tick.” While we learn of Mitch’s softer side through his interest in pottery, we also learn of Trey’s more sophisticated demeanor, despite his in-your-face love of the camera. Trey also aspires to be a detective, but Mitch thinks he lacks the instincts and the commitment to succeed in the behind-the-scenes world of the detective. In the end, the chemistry of two conflicting personalities proves to be the right mix when chasing down gun-making thugs seeking to rob the city blind of all its loot. After the police chief pulls the plug on Trey and Mitch’s reality TV stardom and forces them to turn in their badges for acting “out of character” during a destructive chase, the two cops pool their resources to bring down the gun cartel on their own watch.
The interactions between the two is like watching a relationship grow between you and your newly present father-in-law: painful, but necessary. And as DeNiro evidences in movies about playing the father-in-law, he carries his tough Clint Eastwood demeanor against the ostentatious tongue-wagging braggadocio of Murphy’s character with comedy and a tight flare for the dramatic. Voila! It makes fireworks. This is a good date movie, too. It is not your typical COP movie, filled with the typical bang-bang machismo. The more reflective personalities portrayed by Murphy and DeNiro are also balanced by the intervention of Renee Russo, giving the movie an equilibrium that is at once sequenced with action, but leveled with humor and “easy” entertainment. It has a little something for everyone.
While I agree that Eddie Murphy and Robert DeNiro are real icons of the screen (for very different reasons), I confess that I never really think of either as a true watch-your-ass type of character. As bad asses may come, Murphy and DeNiro are always true in their ability to light it up on the screen. And that is the true picture of a bad ass. Hollywood style, anyway.