After his long overdue return to (imposing) form in The Nutty Professor, Eddie Murphy is back with another pleasing offering. In fact, this one announces the Murphster's retirement from a long and hard battle with Steve Martin (Martin's prize: the award for longest consecutive tally of shit films). You see, Metro isn't half-bad, and, while the plot inspires a certain sense of déjà vû ("It's Beverly Hills Cop 4, isn't it?"), Murphy's quick-witted plod-with-a-heart role is, for once, a tad more challenging than most of the grinning swearmonger's recent incarnations. There's noticeably less quipping from Murphy this time around; he's quite clearly relishing the opportunity to further his acting rather than his comedic skills, in which task he's aided by a tight script, stylish cinematography, a babe, a boy and a legion of brave (or stupid) stuntmen.
The opening scene sets the pace, as some tattooed nutter holes up with his hostages after a fumbled bank raid. An ice-cool SWAT team are itching to burst inside with their tear gas and guns, but the city sends Murphy instead: he strolls into the bank with a dozen doughnuts, a cool head and a tongue that could talk him into lunch at Ku Klux Klan HQ.
The story is startlingly unoriginal, but Rentaplot #47 has worked in the past - - many, many times - - and shows little sign of wearing thin yet. See if you recognise anything: when a good cop gets blown away by a twitchy scumbag, his colleague and best friend blames himself and, in an inventive "twist", decides to avenge his partner's untimely death; his chief has other ideas, spotting that said disaffected underling is too closely involved to serve the course of justice; quick as a flash, our hero is off the case, and ordered to "take a holiday"; but, of course, he continues to pursue the bad guy in his own time, rapidly bringing the crim to justice.
Metro, slightly disappointingly, follows this formula almost to the letter, but manages to work anyway. And much of the credit must go to Eddie - smirking and quipping occasionally, but essentially much grimmer than we're used to. That said, you can't overlook the contribution made by the great Bay Area locations, the stylish camerawork (the claustrophobic, jerky effect made famous by NYPD Blue and every Hicksville backwoodsman who ever caught an air crash on his camcorder is used here to good effect) and the solid supporting turns. Michael Wincott, in particular, brings just the right mix of menace, ruthless brutality and urbane sophistication to villain Korda - he seems to be having fun with the role - while newcomer Carmen Ejogo is a sight for sore wrists as Eddie's on/off English girlfriend. Rapaport, as Eddie`s crack-shot sidekick, has potential too, but isn't really given enough to do.
Though it's no action classic, Metro provides a fun and fast-paced ride - it's worth watching for the chase sequences, including an absurdly gripping tram/car thing - but it'll disappoint some by being much less funny than you'd expect from Murph. Still, after The Nutty Professor, he's on a roll, and Metro will undoubtedly do good business. It'll take you maybe an hour before you stop expecting Taggart and Rosewood to turn up, however...