March 08, 1993 12:00 PM

Robert De Niro, Bill Murray, Uma Thurman

While this is a most original movie, originality itself isn’t that entertaining, particularly in a romantic cops-and-robbers comedy where the romance isn’t romantic, the crime is preposterous, the comedy isn’t funny, and the sex isn’t sexy. Vile and insistently violent, this is Honeymoon in vegus without the fun.

Further discomfiting is watching the affable, placid Murray try to play a vicious hoodlum who is a loan shark and a pimp. It’s like watching Lassie try to play a killer pooch.

Murray is a minor Chicago mobster whose life is saved by De Niro, a cop who happens to interrupt a holdup in a grocery store where Murray is a customer. As a reward, Murray sends the comely Thurman—who has in effect become his indentured servant, to pay off her brother’s debts—to be De Niro’s live-in “friend” for a week.

The offensiveness of this whole proposition is compounded by the fact that De Niro, playing a passive sort whose duty is limited to taking pictures of crime scenes, seems further out of his element than the 700 miles between New York City, his usual cinematic turf, and Chicago. He never makes his character’s timidity (Mad Dog is an ironic nickname) even vaguely believable.

The most fun in the film comes from the exaggerated performance of Mike Starr as Murray’s moosey strong-arm and David Caruso’s all-too-straight one as De Niro’s earnest partner. Kathy Baker is hardly fun as De Niro’s neighbor and ex-girlfriend, but she is so affecting and ingratiating that-lie strikes one of the film’s few sympathetic chords.

When De Niro and Murray finally get into a fistfight over who “owns” Thurman, the scuffle is ludicrous, not least because Murray punches like a third grader in a recess spat. The mismatch could have been funny, but that would have been another movie altogether. (R)

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