on January 17, 1997 by Christine James
   Surprisingly managing to avoid Axel Foley redux despite starring once again as a smartass yet superlative cop, Eddie Murphy is winsome in this formulaic but effective actioner. Inverting the wisecracking-to-serious ratios helped Murphy separate "Metro's" Scott Roper sufficiently from "Beverly Hills Cop's" Foley, as did the actor's abstinence from slipping in his now-annoying notorious chortle (except once). Roper is an expert hostage negotiator who's paired (to his predictable disgruntlement) with SWAT team sharp-shooter Kevin McCall ("Beautiful Girls'" Michael Rapaport). Soon, however, Roper takes the worthy rookie under his wing and teaches him the tricks of the trade.
   When a hostage negotiation goes horribly awry, Roper and McCall find themselves entrenched in one of the more lengthy and destructive car chases in cinema history as they pursue a cerebral but soulless psycho, Korda (a chilling, demonic-voiced Michael Wincott), who has $10 million in stolen jewels, through the treacherously hilly streets of San Francisco. It turns out this same criminal is responsible for the murder of a colleague and good friend of Roper's, giving the relentless pursuit a "this time it's personal" tension.
   While sharing a laugh with the audience by poking fun at some thriller cliches, "Metro" is guilty of indulging in many as well. Particularly unabashed is a scene in which Korda endangers Roper's girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo) much in the same way that moustache-twirlers of yore used to after they tied women to logs and threaten them with buzzsaws. And the title is a little confusing; one would expect most of the action to take place in a subway, but "Metro" must instead refer to the gritty city in which it's set, though the atmosphere of the urban center is never really touched upon. Nevertheless, "Metro" does a good job in balancing harrowing action with comic relief, and the film's stars all give engaging performances. Starring Eddie Murphy, Michael Rapaport and Michael Wincott. Directed by Thomas Carter. Written by Randy Feldman. Produced by Roger Birnbaum. A Buena Vista release. Action. Rated R for strong violence and language. Running time: 117 min
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