Friday January 17, 1997
Since "Metro" stars Eddie Murphy and since it opens in a quiet week, this stale action thriller may well attract audiences who can't get enough of Murphy or mindless, bone-crunching violence, no matter how totally uninspired and credibility-defying the circumstances.
Cast as a San Francisco police department hostage negotiator, Murphy is his usual witty, charismatic self, which serves only to underline how inferior this film really is. There's just got to be better action scripts out there for Murphy, and in the wake of the acclaim he's accrued for "The Nutty Professor," he ought to hold out for them.
By-the-numbers doesn't begin to describe how cliche-ridden Randy Feldman's script is. Once past a not-bad opening sequence set in a bank, in which Murphy's Scott Roper demonstrates how fearless and skilled a negotiator he is, "Metro" pretty much runs out of gas. What story there is is set in motion when Roper's pal, a veteran lieutenant (Art Evans, ever-reliable), is slain. Sure enough, the enraged and grief-stricken Roper is forbidden to work on the case. But wouldn't you know, there are more twists and turns involving a vicious and elusive crook (Michael Wincott) who manages a $10,000 heist in jewelry from the venerable Shreve & Co.
There needs to be a moratorium on star policemen like Roper bursting into squad rooms like a tornado every time they enter and police captains who tell such stars they can't work on their friends' murders when we already know they will anyway.
Equally predictable is that Roper will be estranged from the woman in his life; very few movie policemen over the last 25 years have had stand-up wives or girlfriends. Since Roper's girlfriend Ronnie (Carmen Ejogo) is a San Francisco newspaper photographer, you would think that she would understand how central Roper's work is in his life. You would also think that, if she had trouble dealing with this, she'd back off at the first hint that her own life could be in danger, instead of drawing closer to him. Ejogo deserves a lot of credit for making Ronnie as plausible as she does. Not much is made of Roper's new partner, a deceptively nerdy type played affably by Michael Rapaport.
Then there's the inevitable set-piece chase scene, which in this case involves a runaway cable car--hey, it's San Francisco--and is a stunt work tour de force, but which is way out of proportion for this movie's meager material. The streets of San Francisco are strewn with so many wrecked cars over such a wide area that this catastrophe has got to be the city's worst disaster since the Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989 or maybe even the 1906 quake and fire. Yet no one ever refers to this major occurrence once it is over.
No effort has been stinted in polishing this painfully derivative picture as if it were a diamond instead of strictly paste. Director Thomas Carter keeps things moving, Fred Murphy's camera work gleams, but at three minutes short of two hours, "Metro" seems drawn-out and wearying. Well, here's something, at least: It does leave you mildly curious as to why the bad guy is called Michael Korda--the very name of a noted author and editor in his own right.
Metro, 1997. R, for strong language and violence. A Buena Vista release of a Touchstone Pictures presentation in association with Caravan Pictures. Director Thomas Carter. Producer Roger Birnbaum. Executive producers Mark Lipsky, Riley Kathryn Ellis. Screenplay Randy Feldman. Cinematographer Fred Murphy. Editor Peter E. Berger. Costumes Ha Nguyen. Music Steve Porcaro. Production designer William Elliott. Art director Greg Papalia. Set designers James Claytor, Dawn Swiderski, William R. Beck. Set decorator Jerie Kelter. Running time: 1 hour, 57 minutes. Eddie Murphy as Scott Roper. Carmen Ejogo as Ronnie. Michael Rapaport as Kevin McCall. Michael Wincott as Michael Korda.