The movie received generally negative reviews from critics who felt that Murphy had done the film many times previously. It has 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, despite Roger Ebert giving the film a favorable review; he said "the big action scenes are cleverly staged and Eddie Murphy is back on his game again, with a high-energy performance and crisp dialogue." Another negative review came from Stephen Holden of The New York Times, who called the film "aimless" and stated that "the vehicular pirouettes and ski jumps are so exaggerated that they correspond neither to the urban geography nor to the laws of physics. And the jiggling camera can't blur the careless mechanical stitching in a sequence that tries to make up for in length what it lacks in inventiveness. After all, when you've seen one spinning car, haven't you seen them all? And hasn't this demolition derby been staged several times before on the same streets with infinitely more pizazz and zest for destruction?" Michael Wilmington agreed, saying "If it weren't for all the jokes [...] the movie might be unintentionally funny," and that "For most of the people who made "Metro," shamelessness is probably a virtue, like good muscle tone. At the end, writer Feldman has actually dreamed up a variation on the old silent movie chestnut, where the mustache-twirling villain has the heroine tied to a sawmill plank. I'm not even sure this scene is intended humorously; the actors and director all milk it dry. And, except for Murphy's rapid-fire badinage, "Metro" has the kind of writing that suggests a mind filled with heroines tied to sawmill planks."
With "Metro" I reckon Eddie Murphy was trying to get back into something similar to "Beverly Hills Cop" I & II and his classic Axel Foley role and the success of those films, but the former film is hardly even close to the others. The humour is not as evident as in "Beverly Hills Cop" and Murphy´s over the top "wisecracking" in "Metro" is just tiring and annoying. The plotline is nothing special, the pairing with Michael Rapaport´s McCall is not that interesting and Rapaport is underused, the action sequences quite ok at times (but mostly not that believable) and the cinematography is ok. "Metro" is not original nor different from most Hollywood action cop comedy thrillers, it´s just about routine & predictability. Average and generic are other words that comes in mind. The best part is that the film is shot in lovely San Francisco.
Then there's the director, Thomas Carter, who won Several primetime Emmy's for drama series. And he directed the masterpiece 'Coach Carter'. No, that one is not about himself. I'll have more to say about him later.
The star of the movie is Eddie Murphy who plays Roper, a hostage negotiator with the San Francisco PD. Is Eddie any good here? Well, yes. He is as good as it gets in this setting. If the script wasn't so generic and the general production moved up a notch, maybe the whole movie could have walked that fine line between comedy and drama.
Michael Wincott is the villain. He disappoints as Korda, mainly because his characted is so generic. He hardly gets to add any personality to his role. His lines and surroundings are so cliche, that the whole thing never really fleshes out. And I refuse to write that down to bad acting on his part.
So here you have two more than capable actors stuck in a story that is both predictable (no matter how many times our lovely director tries to trick us, be it with faux horror sound effects or plot holes) and ill-executed.
It all starts off fine, setting up location and the Roper character. Even though this movie depicts a very clean version of downtown San Francisco, the start is quite okay.
But as the film progresses and several story lines about Roper, his (former) partners, his (ex) girlfriend and up-and-coming nemesis Korda get fleshed out, the story falls apart. There are plot holes that will leave you stare at the screen with your mouth open for a few seconds. There are cringeworthy performances by extra's in the robbery/hostage scenes. There are outcomes so predictable that it kills all the suspense. And then, almost at the end of the movie, there are silly and ridiculous attempts at suspense that make you LOL.
All in all, for a 1997 action/drama/comedy, it kind of delivers in the action department, even though the chase scenes are mostly memorable for being in San Francisco. The drama is underwhelming and the comedy doesn't balance well here. Meh.
Pros: Eddie Murphy does an OK job
Cons: Generic, predictable, etc.
Verdict: Watch if there's really nothing else on.
There's nothing special about the story here, in fact it's chock full of action movie cliches, but I appreciated Murphy's intense performance and the moments when the film chooses to buck the familiar story. An example would be in his relationship with Michael Rapaport as the promising young rookie where the veteran cop chooses to nurture rather than resist him. I would have liked to see more of that dynamic.
The star is quite good in scenes that could have been laughable in which he is required to be fierce, such as his prison showdown with villain Michael Wincott. There are a number of thrilling action set pieces, most notably the chase scene involving a San Francisco streetcar, and the finale is exciting despite the set-up's predictability. It's a standard, police-issue ending but the film had already hooked me so it was hard to nitpick over its unoriginality.
In fact, there's nearly nothing in "Metro" than an avid movie buff hasn't seen dozens of times before, but I admired Murphy's willingness to take a chance and the overall tone of the picture. It definitely will never be accused of breaking any new ground, but it is a very entertaining film with a solid lead performance holding it all together.