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By Devin D. O'Leary

SEPTEMBER 20, 1999:  Comedian-turned-coma-case Martin Lawrence has proved himself, a time or two, to be a fair dramatic actor. Paired up against Eddie Murphy in Life, Lawrence did admirable work as "the straight guy" to Murphy's "funny guy." Considering the amount of turmoil that the comedian's personal life has generated, it's not much of a stretch to picture the man turning in a fine, dark portrayal in a serious film one of these days. Lawrence's latest vehicle, however, is anything but serious. Blue Streak is Lawrence's first true starring role and emerges as a sporadically funny, but narratively absurd bit of action comedy flufferoo.

Lawrence headlines as Los Angeles jewel thief Miles Logan. For starters, Miles organizes a daring downtown heist to nab a $20 million diamond. The heist comes off flawlessly, but when all is said and done, Miles finds himself staring down the gun barrel of his double-crossing partner Deacon (Peter Greene) who wants the burgled bauble all to himself. In a mad dash to escape the police and rid himself of the greedy Deacon, Miles becomes rat-trapped in a half-finished construction site. Thinking fast, Miles hides the diamond in an exposed air conditioning duct, mere seconds before he is pinched by the police. Two years on down the road, Miles is released from jail and goes looking for his rock. In a bit of contrived irony, the construction site has now been turned into a stationhouse for the Los Angeles Police Department.

So how does a paroled burglar get into an impregnable police station? Naturally, he disguises himself as a police officer, phony badge and all, and pretends to be a newly transferred detective. Yes, it's a far-fetched premise, but we're expected to go along with it for the sake of comedy. Naturally, the seasoned veteran calling himself "Detective Malone" is quickly accepted into the ranks of the 37th Precinct's robbery/homicide division and immediately partnered up with bungling new recruit Carlson (Luke Wilson).

Most of Blue Streak's comedy is derived from our anti-hero being forced to continue his felon-out-of-water charade. Every time Miles goes looking for the diamond, he's called away to solve a crime -- a job at which he proves most adept. All of Detective Malone's co-workers are impressed with his uncanny ability to "think like a criminal."

Unfortunately, Blue Streak quickly bypasses "far-fetched" and heads straight into "preposterous" territory. By the end of the very first day, Miles has not only collared several dangerous criminals and hoodwinked every detective in the building, but he's been promoted to head of the entire department! Two days later, when our phony cop is called upon to front a massive FBI investigation of the World's Most Dangerous Drug Lord, things have become only marginally more realistic than The Wizard of Oz.

Martin Lawrence, a comedian with a propensity to irritate as well as entertain, here does his level best to cram some humor into a shaky vehicle. Aside from his pointless, but frequently shouted catchphrases ("Believe dat!"), Lawrence adapts fairly well to a role that probably had its creators dreaming of Eddie Murphy. Lawrence has certainly got the energy to pull it off, but is far more comfortable with physical comedy than verbal -- as amply demonstrated by Lawrence's brief, no-holds-barred attempt to get into the police precinct dressed as a buck-toothed pizza delivery boy. Luke Wilson (Bottle Rocket) is perfectly acceptable as the mild-mannered white boy sidekick, but hardly gets to do much in Lawrence's shadow. Ari Nicole Parker (Boogie Nights) pops in several times as a no-nonsense public defender who's appalled by the violent methods of Detective Malone. Clearly she's intended to be somebody's love interest, but somewhere along the line the scriptwriters forgot about her, and she's left with only a couple fleeting, go-nowhere scenes.

Fans of Lawrence's boisterous comedy will milk a laugh or two from this silly but harmless vehicle. Others may find their senses of disbelief stretched to the breaking point. Blue Streak isn't a crime by any means, but it at least qualifies as a misdemeanor.

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