**/**** Image A- Sound B Extras C+
starring Martin Lawrence, Luke Wilson, Dave Chappelle, William Forsythe
screenplay by Michael Berry & John Blumenthal and Steve Carpenter
directed by Les Mayfield
by Bryant Frazer Very early on in Blue Streak, as Miles Logan, the character portrayed by a fast-talking Martin Lawrence, co-opts Dr. Martin Luther King's famous "I Have a Dream" speech to describe his own civil rights movement upon getting released from the joint after serving time for his role in a botched jewel heist, it's clear the film is aiming for giddy irreverence. But slavish conformance to most conventions of the late-1990s PG-13 action farce keeps it from scaling the kind of heights that Lawrence's confident and wholly unpretentious comic presence occasionally suggests.
The MacGuffin keeping the story in motion is a valuable diamond that Miles managed to hide in a construction site before being captured by police two years earlier. To his dismay, that random building turned out to be a new police headquarters downtown. Miles's first idea is to try and bluff his way inside as a civilian. He shows up in the lobby as a loose-limbed pizza delivery boy with bad phoney teeth, and while this get-up is so outré that failure is guaranteed--it would seem outright racist if it were possible to determine any particular ethnic group that it targeted--Lawrence is so obviously intoxicated by the very idea of this charade that it's hard not to root for the character as he goes through his rubbery motions.Miles does manage to get out of the building with an officer's security pass, and he's able to use it to forge credentials that let him bluff his way into a job where he rides shotgun alongside gullible straight guy Officer Carlson (Luke Wilson) and teaches the LAPD a thing or two about running down the bad guys. It's a clever set-up for a buddy cop comedy. For Miles, this is a rags-to-riches story where the riches are the power and privilege conferred on a working-class black man by the presence of a badge. It doesn't take long before he's giddy with his new authority, grabbing his police cruiser's bullhorn to yell at one driver, "This is the police--move your busted-ass vehicle." And when Carlson starts asking him about his fictitious career in law enforcement, he refuses to answer questions, declaring, "I'm deep, okay?" In these moments, Blue Streak works both as a satire of action-movie conventions and as a slapstick meditation on the disparity in power between the police and the poor people they protect and serve.
Unfortunately, Blue Streak's more amusing shenanigans aren't enough to fill out the film's 93-minute running time. Repeated appearances by a manic Dave Chappelle, playing Miles's old buddy Tulley, help a little bit. Yet by the third act, the picture's comic sparks are completely obscured by the unimaginative cop-movie clichés that it trots out in the name of a big finish at the U.S.-Mexico border. It's not a bad little comedy--but it's not a good one either. Like so much Hollywood product, this one is a pitch straight down the middle of the road.
THE BLU-RAY DISC
Similarly, Blue Streak's Blu-ray release is neither auspicious nor embarrassing. Sony has done its usual great job retaining film-like qualities in an HD transfer. The AVC-encoded presentation (just under 27 GB on the disc) is letterboxed to 1.85 within the frame, and the picture looks about like I'd expect a theatrical print to look. The image has a crisp, fine grain structure evident in every scene, and the colour-timing tends towards a cool blue--which is almost certainly intentional, given the film's title. Some shots have a slightly harsh appearance that indicates they may have been sharpened up, but I didn't notice any of the distracting halos that signal overt edge-enhancement, which has become the most widely acknowledged enemy of good HiDef transfers. Skin tones are good, if a bit pinkish, and exterior shots have a particularly high-contrast gloss. There's less to say about the audio, encoded in Dolby TrueHD 5.1 (I listened to the 640 kbps Dolby Digital core) and rarely straying beyond a front-heavy mix, though I did jump out of my freaking skin at 59:13, when a helicopter suddenly swooped in over my left shoulder.
All of the extras are MPEG-2 standard-definition only. "Blue Streak: Setting Up for the Score" (22 mins.) is your standard-issue documentary featurette full of B-roll footage, some fuzzy production stills, and talking-head interviews with actors and other filmmakers. In one clip, director Les Mayfield (Flubber, Encino Man) says he liked the film's contrast of comedy and "real hard action," suggesting that he wouldn't know a hard action movie if it busted a cap in his ass. An interview with Dave Chappelle from his pre-zillionaire period insinuates there was a lot of improv on set, meaning some deleted scenes would be nice. Unfortunately, they're not here. Featured instead is an unctuously-narrated HBO First Look program titled "Inside & Undercover" (23 mins.). The inclusion of these pay-cable promos as DVD and BD supplements remains one of the bigger insults in videoland, as studios repackage banal commercials for their own product, selling it back to the fans as a bulleted value-add on the disc package. It's rare that they add anything substantial to the release, and this one is no exception. At least both docs are generously subbed, in French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Korean, Thai, and Dutch--but not English, as it happens.
Finally, there are three music videos (13 mins. total). The Jay-Z video, "Girl's Best Friend," takes place in a cheesy, diamond-inspired VFX environment that makes it look like Jigga Man and a dozen bikini-clad dancing girls are performing inside Superman's Fortress of Solitude. "Criminal Mind" by Tyrese and Heavy D samples Average White Band, combining rooftop dance moves and movie clips. And "Damn (Should've Treated U Right)" by So Plush featuring Ja Rule boasts even more dancing and is set in front of an intensely-saturated faux-sunset backdrop. The songs are decent enough, although none of the videos is anything special. The video bit meter is almost topped out, but the sound here is only two-channel 192 kbps Dolby Digital. With the increased capacity of Blu-ray, PCM audio would have been a nice gesture. Originally published: January 28, 2009.