Screenplay : Michael Berry & John Blumenthal and Steve Carpenter
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 1999
Stars : Martin Lawrence (Miles Logan), Luke Wilson (Carlson), Peter Greene (Deacon), David Chappelle (Tulley), Nicole Parker (Melissa Green), Graham Beckel (Rizzo), Robert Miranda (Glenfiddish), Olek Krupa (LaFleur)
Few movies can survive on the charisma of their leading actors alone. Only the strongest performers are able to carry an underwritten movie and make it amount to something, and despite his talent and energy, Martin Lawrence is not one of those actors. Lawrence is at his best when he's teamed with someone of equal or superior energy and talent (Will Smith in "Bad Boys," Eddie Murphy in "Life") because he works by bouncing off his co-stars. When he's alone, he looks like he's trying too hard.
In his latest vehicle--an action-comedy called "Blue Streak" for no apparent reason other than the fact that it connotes speed and looks good on a movie poster--Lawrence is left to carry the movie by himself, and the results are mixed.
"Blue Streak" is one of those one-concept movies you can easily picture a writer pitching to a producer (what if a jewel thief had to impersonate a cop in order to get back a diamond that is hidden in a police station) that quickly runs out of creative steam. The majority of the dialogue sounds improvised--not improvised in a manic, Robin Williams-kind of way, but improvised out of desperation. Lawrence throws out as many words-per-sentence as he can, hoping that something will strike a funny bone. Some of it does, but much of it does not. What does it say about the movie's humor that its funniest scenes involve asking us to laugh along at police brutality? (The fact that the police department, characterized as a bureaucratic, unorganized joke, happens to be the LAPD, which was responsible for the notorious Rodney King beating, can't be too far from one's mind.)
The story concerns Miles Logan (Lawrence), a professional jewel thief who is double-crossed by one of his partners, Deacon (Peter Greene), during the heist of a large diamond. Right before he is arrested, Miles hides the diamond inside an air conditioning duct in an unfinished building. When he gets out of jail two years later, he discovers that the building is now a Los Angeles police station, and the air duct where the diamond is hidden is on the third floor, now occupied by the robbery/homicide unit.
To get inside, Miles pretends to be a newly transferred police detective. This sets up the movie's running joke, which is the fact that Miles' attempts to recover the diamond are constantly thwarted by his having to go out and fight crime with the very cops who would have arrested him two years earlier. With his ability to "think like a criminal" and a number of misunderstandings and coincidences, the other officers begin to think that Miles is the best cop on the force, and he is promoted to lead detective. At the same time, when things about Miles don't quite add up (such as the fact that his badge number doesn't exist in any records), his fellow cops begin to suspect that something is fishy. Is he from Internal Affairs? Perhaps a member of the CIA? FBI?
What this all amounts to is plenty of open space for Lawrence to mug and the plot to sag. The writers are so busy keeping the diamond out of Miles' hand so the movie can continue, they forgot to create anything resembling surrounding characters.
Luke Wilson ("Home Fries") stands around bewildered as Miles' clueless rookie partner (it's as if the director sought the blandest possible actor who wouldn't have even the faintest hope of competing with Lawrence's overwhelming presence). Peter Greene (still best known as Zed in "Pulp Fiction") snarls and growls as Miles' back-stabbing partner, but is unable to leave much of an impression. David Chappelle has an amusing turn as one of Miles' old buddies in the crime circuit whom Miles has to arrest during a convenience store robbery; the sequence starts out funny, but it goes on much longer than it needs to, and Chappelle's goofy antics quickly wear thin.
Amid the comedy, director Les Mayfield ("Flubber," "Encino Man") constructs numerous car chases and shoot-outs with little flair, and the result is a lot of smoke and noise but no real impact. "Blue Streak" is part comedy, part action movie, but it excels at neither. There are a few interesting sequences and a handful of real laughs, but not much more. It's a hard movie to characterize because it leaves your mind as soon as it enters; by the final reel, I was having as hard time remembering what had happened in the first ten minutes. It's not so much a bad movie as it is utterly unmemorable, and in some ways that is a worse crime.
©1999 James Kendrick