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A COP theme, some really heavy-duty action sequences and poker-faced humour about TV biz, combine to make Warner Bros' "Showtime" good fun to watch. And even if it is not exactly the freshest of ideas (both Eddie Murphy and Robert De Niro have played cops before), director Tom Dey manages to present a rather vivid picture of this rather well tried concept.

There are several pot-holes but the inconsistencies pass off, when you laugh and take it for what it is — mindless fun. Besides, expectations can be quite misleading. You'd expect an actor such as Robert De Niro to come up with an intense performance. But no, he clowns around and that too with the blandest of expressions. Which is probably why you might endure the film with good humour.

Gruff and macho detective Mitch Preston is painfully camera shy and Trey Sellers is a petty cop who would much rather be an actor. When these two oddballs are thrown together, it is pretty funny.

Preston gets mad when a news cameraman interferes while he is trying to arrest a drug dealer. In a fit of rage he slugs the camera, and finds himself at the mercy of the television producer (Rene Russo) who sees immense potential in this kind of a reality show. `Either you participate in a show featuring cops or we sue.'

The network will drop the matter if Preston allows a crew to follow him around as he brings criminals down. But there is a problem. Preston's partner is wounded during the episode and a new camera friendly partner is now needed to make the show a success. The gruff partner cannot stand the easy-going Trey, who wins the co-starring role by staging a fake crime in front of the producers.

Mitch knows Trey is a lousy cop and has no knack for detective work; and Trey shows Mitch how to jump onto hoods of cars and leap from rooftops. Mitch of course has never seen so much action in all his years of service!

The two bicker, look out for each other, and walk off into the climax to save the city from the horrid gun-toting criminals — such as the Caesar Vargas (Pedro Damain) who is in possession of a previously unknown weapon, capable of piercing even heavily armoured cars and contraptions. Pretty heavy stuff for a comedy!

De Niro is rather delightful with just the right tone of indignity and reluctant tolerance, while Eddie Murphy is very comfortable as the media-struck cop taking all the adulation (once the show becomes a hit) in his stride.

Rene Russo plays the ambitious producer in need of good ratings and simply cannot understand how anyone could object to her `fabulous idea' of gritty police officers' lives becoming part of a drawing room experience; she does well. William Shatner steals the scenes where he appears as himself, hired by the network to teach the duo to act as television cops.


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