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Year: 2002
Length:1 Hour 35 Minutes
Cast:Tom Dey, Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo

Here's something of a rarity: A raucously satirical film that's actually a perfect example of the genre it's lampooning. Showtime is a lighthearted police procedural of the type commonly referred to as a "buddy movie," and two more unlikely screen buddies could hardly have been cast. Robert De Niro plays granite-tough LAPD detective Mitch Preston, whose no-nonsense approach to law enforcement puts him at odds with his public-relations-minded superiors. In an attempt to soften both his and the department's image, Mitch is ordered to appear in a reality-based TV show with beat officer Trey Sellars (Eddie Murphy), a wannabe actor more interested in signing autographs than busting perps. The gimmick here is that Preston is on the trail of some very bad people -- vicious foreign gangsters who've obtained newly designed weapons with enormous firepower. Consequently, the action is fast, furious, and occasionally quite violent. Director Tom Dey (Shanghai Noon) maintains the perfect balance between clowning and crime fighting, gleefully poking a cinematic finger in the eyes of TV producers whose pursuit of "reality" seldom includes telling the plain, unvarnished truth. In one of her best performances to date, Rene Russo portrays the show's producer, Chase Renzi, whose innovations include redesigning police headquarters to make it visually appealing to viewers, eliciting on-camera confessions from Mitch and Trey, and following the officers with a camera crew -- while they're working undercover. William Shatner, playing himself in the latest of a string of comedic supporting turns, takes some good-natured ribbing for his cornball antics in the old cop show T. J. Hooker. Given their respective backgrounds and previous hit films, De Niro and Murphy might seem like the oddest of odd couples, but they have terrific chemistry together, which is principally why Showtime succeeds as great entertainment. Dey, producer Jorge Saralegui, and editor Billy Weber supply a commentary for the DVD, which also includes several extended scenes and a handful of unused, improvisational "confession" scenes. Ed Hulse

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