Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 1:33 - Released 9/17/99

Since his collaboration with Eddie Murphy in last spring's Life, Martin Lawrence seems destined to follow that actor's professional path. His propensity for slapstick and overblown racial characterizations, coupled with his immense energy and smart delivery, make him a prime candidate for the same types of films Murphy has starred in for years. Blue Streak, directed by Les Mayfield, has Martin in the starring role, and it is an apt showcase for his considerable skill as a comedian.

Lawrence plays Miles Logan, a jewel thief in L.A. who almost succeeds in stealing a really huge diamond when the job is botched and he and his accomplices barely escape with their lives. He hides the diamond in a heating vent and makes a mental note of the building's address. After spending two years in prison, he returns to the site to find his booty, and discovers that the building is none other than L.A.P.D. headquarters. However, through his incredible cunning and the utter stupidity of the (mostly white) officers, he is mistaken for an experienced cop who has just transferred from another department. Since his assigned partner, Carlson (Luke Wilson), is a rookie, he quickly takes control of the situation. Applauded for his ability to think like a criminal (after all, he is one), he relishes the power of police work, actually solving some important cases. In the meantime, he continues the search for his diamond in the ductwork.

But soon Miles's luck turns bad: Deacon (Peter Greene, The Mask) and Tulley (David Chappelle), the other two guys on the diamond heist, track him down and demand their cut of the rock, or else. While he tries to convince them to play it cool while he searches the department, he is enlisted to participate in a major sting operation against a violent drug lord (Olek Krupa).

This movie survives completely on Lawrence's unbridled energy. The story is stupid, the ending is stupid, the other characters are stupid, and even Luke Wilson (Home Fries) lacks depth in his role as second banana. But like Eddie Murphy's movies, it's funny anyway, simply because of its star. Lawrence's recent hospitalization, when he reportedly spent several days in a coma resulting from heat prostration, is perhaps indicative of his sometimes ill-advised willingness to throw himself into his career: he was apparently trying to lose weight for a role. One would hope that his over-the-top style, so integral to his success, would not require him to endanger his health.

Blue Streak is one of those guilty pleasures. Its script, penned by Michael Berry and John Blumenthal, panders to the lowest common denominator of moviegoer; it's the same kind of script you'd see Richard Pryor starring in 20 years ago. Director Mayfield, who helmed the just-as-insipid Flubber almost two years ago, wisely gets out of the way to let Lawrence work. But any scenes or plot devices that don't involve him (there are a few) are nothing more than filler. ***½

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

See Current Reviews

See FilmQuips Archive