"RUNNING SCARED," ha. They ought to call this police story "Re-Running Scared." It's as cliche- riddled as Scarface's limo.

Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal costar as a couple of street-smart undercover cops, your standard snappy salt-and-pepper movers and shakers, run-of-the-mill dirtbag-busters. They rough up druggies, browbeat stoolies, crack wise and peeve the by-the-bookers.

They should have cracked jokes instead of ribs and maybe tap-danced on the bad guys' graves. They had the potential, this low-voltage but pleasant pair -- but the screenwriters, a couple of cops-action copycats named Gary DeVore and Jimmy Huston, don't suffer from overstimulated imaginations. And their pat plot lets the stars down, along with the safety-first direction of Peter ("2010") Hyams. In these days of glitz and glamour among TV vice, you've got to show style and flair. Flamingos, even.

Crystal and Hines may be staked out in Chicago, but that doesn't stop them from going to Florida for a vacation of sun, surf, sex, and to make the customary video, so to speak. Refreshed and reformed, the partners return to Chi-Town for a last blast with the criminal element; they plan to resign, and then open a bar down in Vice Land. Naturally, all the hairbags want a last shot at these two top-notch, street-smart wise-apples.

Meanwhile the customary doings continue apace (but not nearly as fast as the movie's trailer). They exchange harsh words with their cranky but kindhearted chief (Dan Hedaya), who has their best interests at heart. Their careers cause strife with the ladies in their lives; the villains are pursued in a fast-paced car chase, etc., etc. The filmmakers seem to think we know the story so well ourselves, they don't even develop the other characters: The villain, a Latin guy with a good suit, is especially elusive; he doesn't even get to sneer until the last half hour.

It's an unfortunate setting for Hines and, especially, Crystal -- whose dramatic debut is surprisingly sure. Hines ought to stick to productions that strut his estimable tonsils and matters of Terpsichore.

Hill and Renko, Crockett and Tubbs, Murray and Reinhold -- did you ever notice that you never see these guys all in the same place at the same time? -- Rita Kempley.

RUNNING SCARED (R) - At area theaters.