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Starring Eddie Murphy, Michael Rapaport, and Michael Wincott
Directed by Thomas Carter

Cranky says: Every action movie requires the following to be successful:

1) A hero with just enough character and quirks to be interesting and, with any luck, sympathetic.

2) A life at stake -- someone so close to the hero, usually a wife or loved one, that he is driven to do whatever must be done to nail the villain's butt to the ground. It works best if said loved one faces the very real possibility of a messy, sloppy death. A rescue must come before the hero nails the aforementioned butt to the ground.

3) A glue-you-to-your-seat action sequence in which the hero faces the very real possibility of a messy, sloppy death.

4) A villain so evil that you can't wait for the sucker to be blown away. "Blown" as in "drop a grenade down his throat so we can see his guts flying first class to Timbuktu" and thus have the emotional release of knowing that good will always triumph over evil. In short, something messy so that we can yell and cheer.

I've just described Die Hard, which Eddie Murphy's Metro ain't. Metro is a by the book cop-action flick. It has its moments, but utilizes story twists that don't make sense and camera shots that are by-the-book manipulative. The only catch is that the audience knew the shots by heart, and when the result didn't happen, laughed. At first it was because nervous tension was released, but after that it was because director Thomas Carter went to the manipulative well far too often during the course of the flick.

Eddie Murphy plays Scott Roper, a San Francisco Police Inspector. His forte is hostage negotiations, and he's very good at it. He's smart. He's clever. He can suss out a scene almost immediately. All the requirements of #1 above. He's got a gambling jones and can crack enough jokes to make a television commercial interesting, but that's about it. It's a good start, so let's move on to #2, the life at stake.

That would be once and future girlfriend Ronnie Tate (Carmen Ejogo). She's cute, has a very sexy English accent, and works as a photojournalist. She and Roper are on the outs, which is why she's dating a hot shot baseball player, but Metro never introduces any other competition, so the reunion is a done deal. No problem, it's what we expect. On to #3, the action sequence.

Metro is set in the lovely city of San Francisco, home to lots of hills and cable cars. Cable cars travel a straight line and can't exactly get away from a cop-driven car, but Metro's action sequence is an arresting piece of visual choreography. Cars go flying. Bullets go flying. Eddie Murphy goes flying Cadillac car to cable car and back again. As far as it goes, and it goes and goes, the sequence is right up there with Bullitt and French Connection and is the high point of the movie. Bringing us, finally, to the bad guy.

Michael Korda (Michael Wincott) is a "psychotic killer" (so says the website), a jewel thief who sees ten million dollars -- a carefully planned heist -- slip through his fingers. His revenge is to take from Roper that which he loves most, the girlfriend. Problem is, said lady is never known to or mentioned to or seen by Korda. Cranky thought he missed something, but I asked around after the show and no, I didn't. Psychic powers would be an interesting twist, but a missing scene or two is the most likely culprit. If it's not, it's screenwriter Gerber's fault, and such a major error should have been caught at the very beginning of the production process. Big stunts cannot compensate for an even bigger story flaw -- and this isn't a continuity hound barking. It's a major error.

As to the final part of the equation, no one cheered.

Michael Rapaport plays Kevin McCall, the sidekick, a SWAT team sharpshooter who wants to learn the negotiating ropes. McCall is more interesting and not as quirky as Judge Reinhold was in the Beverly Hills Cop flicks, but were there to be a Metro 2 (which I doubt), there would be a solid character to develop.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to Metro, he would have paid . . .


The general reaction of those folk I spoke with afterwards was disappointment. A shrug and an "it was okay" description just doesn't cut it, especially when Murphy has delivered so well in this genre in the past. The sound mix was fine. Rent it and play it loud on a surround sound system. That should be more than "okay."

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