MOVIES . . . METRO: "Eddie Murphy's new cop thriller bears a surface similarity to the early Eddie hits '48 HRS.' and 'Beverly Hills Cop,' but it's lame and lazy, inefficient even as the sort of action machine Hollywood can tool up in its sleep," says TIME's Richard Corliss. "The mandatory car chase is woefully generic; it disregards the laws of physics without raising more than vagrant musings in the viewer. Why, for example, would a cable-car full of passengers be too timid to apprehend the lone bad guy while he's busy wrestling with the hero?" Murphy is Scott Roper, a San Francisco cop making up his own rules in edgy face-offs with the criminal class of the Bay Area. Roper is no Dirty Eddie; he's a negotiator, who has to ingratiate himself with the malefactors before he can blow their heads off. This offers plenty of chances for Murphy-style comedy, none of which writer Randy Feldman or director Thomas Carter bothered to exploit. Except for a decent scene where Roper mimics a white bandit as a test for his galoot partner (Michael Rapaport), there's no room for Eddie to be Eddie. It's as if Carter thought the project was a smooth vehicle that Murphy could simply ride in, when it's really a hunk-a-junk the star needed to transform. Roper is issued a regulation villain (Michael Wincott, whose menacing baritone was used to better effect in the recent Jim Jarmusch corpse opera Dead Man) and a girlfriend in peril (British stunner Carmen Ejogo). A shame the star wasn't given a character to play, witty dialogue to speak or clever plot twists to unravel.