Despite clearly being a Lethal Weapon wannabe without the same spark in nearly every category, Richard Benjamin’s low-wattage buddy-cop film Downtown still features some solid car chases, explosive action sequences, and one very memorable bad-guy dispatching that sort of has to be seen to be believed. Pairing Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker as mismatched partners on the streets of Philadelphia yielded some fun results, with the two of them sharing fine chemistry, but it’s the screenplay that never allowed for anything original or truly inspired to take place. The supporting cast adds some life, with Joe Pantoliano, Penelope Anne Miller, David Clennon, Art Evans, and Glenn Plummer all giving better performances than the material deserved, while the heavy lifting was left to Edwards and Whitaker, who clearly were having some fun, but probably wished that they were making a better film than they were.
Casual racism is tossed off like nobody’s business, the script really leans on cliches, the jokes are decent yet never uproarious, and the film has this odd vibe where, in certain spots, it’s very goofy and affable, and in others, extremely vulgar and rather violent. The narrative is very much a rehash of so many other, better movies that had come before it, but for fans of R-rated B-actioners, Downtown will serve as a decent time waster, the sort of movie that feels like it was made to specifically be rented for $3 on YouTube. Features a very energetic score from Alan Silvestri (Back to the Future) and no-nonsense cinematography by versatile cameraman Richard Kline (Who’ll Stop the Rain, Death Wish II). Dumped onto less than 400 screens in January of 1990, the film barely earned $3 million in domestic box office before being sent to cable rotation. If you’re a fan of this well-traveled genre, it’s worth a low-expectations viewing. And again, it’s got one helluva death scene for one particular villain…!