Mitch Preston (Robert De Niro) is a 28-year veteran detective of the LAPD and he just wants to be left alone to do his job. Trey Sellars is a beat cop with aspirations to be a movie star. When Trey blows a major undercover drug-bust operation being run by Mitch, it is all caught on the local TV news. Suddenly, the pair becomes the newest hot prospect for reality television - a situation that is a living hell for Preston and the chance of a lifetime for Sellars - in "Showtime."
Robin's Review: B-
Despite the stellar pairing of De Niro and Murphy, I had serious doubts about "Showtime." I expected a combination of "48 Hours," "Beverly Hills Cop" and the plethora of buddy-cop movies, and not much more. But, though there is a lot of all of these flicks in "Showtime," I have to admit I had a good time watching these veterans play off of each other.
The film starts out on an amusing note as we watch Mitch address an audience, admonishing them that if they break the law they are going down - hard. Then, the camera switches to his listeners, a stunned group of grade school students. Right from the start we know that Detective Preston is a serious, no nonsense cop.
Trey Sellars is the exact opposite of the hard boiled veteran. The uniformed rookie aspires to be an actor, not a police officer, and he spends his spare time posing in front of the mirror and auditioning for TV cop shows. One night, Trey stumbles upon a suspicious deal that he knows involves drugs. He calls for assistance and, unbeknownst, also alerts the TV news eye-in-the-sky that something big is going down. The only problem is, what's going down is a high profile undercover operation, led by Mitch, and the whole plan gets blown to hell. Totally frustrated that all his work is for naught, Mitch takes out his frustration and shoots the news cam (not the cameraman) that is chronicling his debacle and lands his face on the front page of every paper in the city.
Detective Preston's renegade attitude gets the attention of Chase Renzi (Rene Russo), a high-powered TV producer who sees the potential of such a firebrand personality on a new reality-based TV show. The only problem is Mitch is a horrible actor and wants nothing to do with Renzi or her show. She goes over his head and gets permission from the chief of police to create the reality cop show starring the reluctant detective. But, she realizes that she needs to get the gruff cop a camera-ready partner to smooth things out. Enter Trey and a very unusual odd couple is born. Trey even has an idea for a name for his breakout program - Showtime.
Things follow a routine formula for this kind of flick as the earnest, hard working Mitch resents being teamed with a partner he does not respect. Trey, of course, is oblivious to his new partner's disdain and looks only to get his name up in lights. Despite the personality and dedication differences between the two, Preston slowly gains respect for starry-eyed Trey as they hunt down the film's bad guy, Vargas (Pedro Damian in a generic Alan Rickman-type Euro trash villain, except he's Cuban), the purveyor of a high-tech personal cannon that can blow a house apart, never mind what it can do to a bullet-proof vest. Car chases and shootouts abound as the new dynamic duo hunt down the bad guy and his minion, all to an expected conclusion. (Do you have any doubt, whatsoever, that Mitch and Trey will bond and become best buddies in the end?)
For all the formula buddy-cop stuff I still had a good time watching "Showtime." Aside from the cool cannon, though, there is not anything new going on here. De Niro, smartly, plays Mitch Preston as the straight man to Murphy's comic perf as Trey. The senior actor gets a few funny lines but they are in context with his character. Eddie Murphy does his requisite mugging for the camera and gets the most laughs. (There is one brief sequence where Murphy shows his mime talent that is very amusing.) Rene Russo is decent but not notable as the ambitious, unscrupulous TV producer. She's kind of like the character that Faye Dunaway played in "Network" but without the edge. William Shatner, as himself, has a good time and is totally comfortable poking fun at his past cop starring role in "T.J. Hooker." Celebrity attorney Johnny Cochran makes an amusing cameo appearance, as himself, representing a drug dealer.
Sophomore helmer Tom Dey ("Shanghai Noon") does a solid job in mustering his forces in front of and behind the camera. The screenplay, by Keith Sharon and Alfred Gough and Miles Millar (from a story by co-producer Jorge Saralegui), is by-the-numbers formula, but does a decent job in putting some freshness into the storytelling, examining the whole business of reality (or, is it unreality?) TV. Cinematographer Thomas Kloss shows his music vid and commercial experience with his fast moving, crisp camera work that gives a even look to the movie, "Showtime," in contrast to the shaky hand-held camera of the reality TV "Showtime." Production designer Jeff Mann helps make the destructive shootouts a visual cacophony.
The cast and crew of "Showtime" do a credible job of melding the buddy-cop film genre with our society's penchant, lately, for the whole reality television business. New ground is not trod upon (De Niro has been on this turf before in "15 Minutes"), but the savvy portrayals of the leads, the deftness of direction and an entertaining, excitement-fueled story makes this a decent bit of fast-paced action comedy.