LAPD Detective Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) is a loose canon. He’ not one of those touchy-feely community cops. He’s there to do his job, which is to hunt down criminals and throw them in jail. He also has no interest in having nosy reporters getting in his way while on a crime scene, and one tense night he loses his cool and shoots the camera off one of these rats’ shoulder. Uh oh, bad p.r. move, the network could sue Mitch’s department for all they’ve got… That is unless he accepts to star in their new project for a reality show and have them follow him around with more cameras! What a wacky premise, ain’t it kids? But that’s not all, the show’s producer (Rene Russo) also gives Mitch a partner, “funny minority type” Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy).
Right there, “Showtime” is not looking too good. Its contrived plot is right out of a sitcom, and even if you accept it as satire, reality TV is not the freshest target: COPS has been on the air for a decade! Furthermore, the film doesn’t even stick to the spoof thing, it just pokes fun at cop show clichés for a while, then it settles into said clichés without a second thought until it’s no different than you usual B-movie police thriller. We’ve got a cheesy Euro-trash bad guy (Pedro Damian), a few trigger happy black thugs (including rapper Mos Def), and some of the loudest, most badass machine guns you’ve ever seen. Meanwhile, Mitch and Trey barely do any police work, busy as they are having their oh-so-different personalities clashing, but somehow fall ass backwards in clues and end up in a series of over the top fights, car chases and shoot-outs.
Basically, this is not as much a satire of buddy cop comedies as a buddy cop comedy itself. That said… I loved the stupid thing! Director Tom Dey (“Shanghai Noon”) keeps things fast and fun, and his movie works on its modest terms. It’s like “Rush Hour” (minus the cool kung fu action), a tired formula livened up by good chemistry between the leads. Robert De Niro is good as the straight man, sometimes he’s been having fun with for a couple of years now, in movies like the wonderful “Analyse This” or the not so wonderful “Meet the Parents”. But the real star of the show (and the show-within-the-show) is obviously Eddie Murphy. I was grinning every time his “Ice Trey” was on screen, when I wasn’t downright laughing out loud. He’s perfect as this fast-talking cop more interested in showing off for the cameras than in closing the case. He’s the main reason why, in spite of all its shortcomings, “Showtime” is just too damn entertaining not to recommend.