The first 20 minutes of the cop-reality show comedy "Showtime" are ripe with glossy satire. Robert De Niro plays a no-nonsense Los Angeles detective forced to let TV crews follow him on and off the job so the department won't get sued for his assault on a network cameraman. The guy got in his way during a collar.
The new show's producer (Renee Russo) -- a zealous Hollywood power-broad-in-Prada-shoes with her finger forever on the pulse of the latest demographic data -- quickly realizes her high concept is going to implode if grumpy, frumpy De Niro is all the program has to offer. So she recruits him a wisecracking, showboating, fame-seeking partner (Eddie Murphy) from the dregs of the patrol ranks. She redecorates police headquarters and his dumpy apartment, IKEA-style. She hires former "T.J. Hooker" star William Shatner (in a funnier than usual send-up of himself) to coach her reluctant star on the finer points of eyebrow arching and moving car hood-jumping.
But after spending Act One on all this establishing, director Tom Dey ("Shanghai Noon") utterly abandons the picture's fertile, sarcastic, "real cop" concept and allows "Showtime" to become a high-concept hack job of undiluted Hollywood hypocrisy. Suddenly there's a bleach-blonde Euro-trash bad guy (Pedro Damian) who engineers ridiculously extravagant daylight armored car robberies for no apparent reason except to show off his customized uber-machine gun that fires one-inch ammunition. Suddenly unmotivated cars chases erupt out of nowhere, always ending in slow-mo explosion-crashes.
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