January 27, 1997 12:00 PM

Eddie Murphy, Michael Rapaport

What was Eddie Murphy thinking? Fresh from his triumph in The Nutty Professor, he returns to theaters in a thumpingly loud but adrenaline-free action thriller. He might have fared better offering up a sequel—The Nutty Nobel Laureate. Instead, Murphy plays a top-flight hostage negotiator with the San Francisco police. Newly assigned a partner-in-training (Rapaport, in a part so small a mosquito couldn’t land on it), he is pitted against a criminal mastermind—or perhaps the bad guy’s just a jewel thief? Or a fence? Or does he have something to do with the Mafia? It’s not terribly clear.

Anyway, Murphy is pitted against a villain who has the wiles not only to burgle jewelry stores but to hijack cable cars, escape prison and rig elaborate booby traps for the star, who indulges in far too few outbursts of his customary irreverent humor. The real hostage here is the audience. (R)

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