Blue Streak (1999)
Directed by Les Mayfield
Cast: Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Dave Chappelle, Peter Greene, William Forsythe, Nicole Ari Parker, Tamala Jones.
1999 96 minutes
Rated: (for profanity and violence).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 19, 1999.
Ever seen "Beverly Hills Cop?" "48 Hours?" "Lethal Weapon?" "Rush Hour?" Well, if you have, in fact, seen any one of these films, then there's no reason to waste your time and money seeing "Blue Streak," yet another action/comedy (that seems strangely very old) that pairs a stock, wise-cracking african-american with a buddy of a different race. This tried-and-true formula can turn into financial gold, as proven by every one of the aformentioned pictures, but basically they are all the same, and "Blue Streak" is the most generic one yet. Sure, it is being released the exact same weekend that "Rush Hour" came out on last year, but it is almost devoid of that film's snappy writing and standout performances (from Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan).
Starting off with a typical jewel heist prologue, in which a thief, Miles Logan (Martin Lawrence), attempts to steal a $20-million diamond, he is ultimately caught when the plan goes awry, but is able to hide the highly valuable jewel in the ventilation shafts. Switch to two years later, Miles is released from prison, and immediately rebuffed by his old girlfriend (Tamala Jones), whom he lied to. "I thought you were a banker," she tells him. "No, a bank robber," he corrects her. Making his way to the location where he stashed the diamond, he is horrified to discover that the building is now the station for the LAPD. Through a sneaky series of misunderstandings on the police's part (including a fake badge, stolen ID, and forged paperwork), Miles is believed to be his alter ego, Detective Malone, and is almost instantly paired up with a partner, Carlson (Luke Wilson), in the robbery division. So as Miles must fake his way through being raised to the position of lead detective (something he knows nothing about), he also must find a way to track down the diamond, which is sure to be still lurking in the ventilation ducts.
Even if the basic premise is as old as the Rocky Mountains themselves, it can be done well, as long as the screenplay is witty and appropriately humorous, and the main actor is likable. Unfortunately, neither of these vital aspects hold up here. The screenplay, laughably written by three people, Michael Berry, John Blumenthal, amd Steve Carpenter, has nary a memorable line of dialogue nor one original thought in its head. Clearly aiming to be a funny comedy, the laughs are few and far between, and even then they cause nothing more than a brief giggle, only for the joke to be forgotten about five seconds later.
One thing these derivative cop comedies usually do get right is its lead star, but Martin Lawrence is never given the opportunity to strut his comedic talents (as he was in 1997's superior "Nothing to Lose"). It also doesn't help that his character of Miles has next to no redeeming qualities, and therefore, I didn't like or root for him. Miles is a thief, nothing more, and nowhere in the process of the film does he ever grow a conscience or realize he is just a low-life criminal. The plot developments in the last scene are especially unforgivable, as they make you question just what the point of the film was, and why it needed to be made in the first place.
All the other actors are unnecessarily wasted, and given very little to do. Faring the best (and a more winning presence than Lawrence) is Luke Wilson as his straight-arrow partner, Carlson. Wilson, previously seen in 1998's "Home Fries" and "Rushmore," is an up-and-coming performer who hopefully will go on to better, more established, film roles, rather than waste his time playing second fiddle to the zany likes of Lawrence. The lack of any true female characters is also disappointing. Tamala Jones (1997's hilarious "Booty Call") disappears after one scene near the beginning, while Nicole Ari Parker (1998's "Boogie Nights"), in a throwaway 5-minute role as a public defender, could have easily been further developed and have become a possible love interest for Lawrence. It sure needed something because, as is, the film has only one story (with absolutely no subplots), and is utterly empty and unsatisfying because of this.
A comedy without the laughs, and an action film with a non-existent level of excitement, "Blue Streak" is an obvious and misguided effort, with an inauspicious directing job by Les Mayfield. No technical attributes are worth mentioning either, as everything about the film, right down to the smallest detail, is nearly as cliched as a "Friday the 13th" movie, and as forgettable as an early-afternoon dream. What was the film's title again? Oh yeah, "Blue Streak." I better write that down before I forget it.
©1999 by Dustin Putman