Directed by Tom Dey, starring Robert De Niro, Eddie Murphy, Rene Russo, Frankie R Faison and William Shatner.

More often than not, buddy-buddy cop movies stink. In the late 1980s, the formula got so tired that producers had the brainwave of introducing canine characters. But although the budgets of 'K-9' and 'Turner And Hooch' were considerably reduced by the decision to pair Jim Belushi and Tom Hanks with furried thesps, the trend didn't exactly catch on.

Yet Hollywood is nothing if not formulaic, and it appears the golden safety net for scripters with writers' block is to conjure a gritty cop who eschews the limelight, partner him with either a soft-at-heart psycho or likeable loser, throw in an ambulance load of action, a love interest and some light comedy, and leave the rest to the casting couch and marketing minds. Sometimes, and admittedly they're increasingly rare, it actually works.

While it's completely pointless and silly, 'Showtime' does have one of the most vital ingredients for success – it entertains. The prolific Robert De Niro plays no-nonsense Los Angeles cop Mitch Preston – divorced, married to the job, inscrutable, and not much fun really. When Preston's notoriously short temper leads him to shoot a TV camera during a botched drug bust, an executive at the TV network spots an opportunity to get the green light for a reality COPS-like show.

With the network threatening to sue the LAPD if they refuse to co-operate, Preston has no choice but to participate as the show's main character focus. But as he's devoid of acting ability and audience empathy, producer Chase Renzi (Russo) decides he needs a partner.

Enter one Trey Sellars (Murphy), an incompetent cop who's one ambition is to be on TV. Irritating, loud and criminally inept, Sellars is the epitome of the type of real-life cop that you actually would see on your TV screen. The dynamic from here on in is pure popcorn stuff – Preston and Sellars hate each other, they save each other, they bond, they kick ass and, of course, the show becomes the biggest hit reality show in television history.

The biggest surprise of 'Showtime' is undoubtedly the chemistry between De Niro and Murphy. The former has had varying degrees of success in light comedy action vehicles but this is certainly one of his better efforts. Murphy is Murphy, and while he can often ham it up to the point where you wish someone would shoot him, he can certainly fill the screen, even when he's not smiling.

This is light, slight stuff but good and all as Hooch and Jerry Lee (the dog in 'K-9') were, even De Niro and Murphy on auto-pilot have marginally more charisma.

Tom Grealis