In "Running Scared," Ray (Gregory Hines) and Danny (Billy Crystal) are two Chicago cops who bend the rules (don't all movie cops bend the rules?) and have a few yocks doing it. Tired of dodging slugs, they both apply for retirement, but in the month they've got left, nabbing a nasty cocaine dealer becomes a priority.

What are a tap dancer and a stand-up comedian doing with those guns? Well might you ask, for "Running Scared" never seems like more than an exercise for two entertainers who want to play cops and robbers, a game that was never much fun for the adults who had to look on.

Such an attenuated plot might be fine if Hines were allowed to dance (he isn't) or the jokes were funnier (they're not). Director Peter Hyams has the comic timing of a tax auditor, but at least he can build a car chase, and if you stick around till the end (you shouldn't), there is an expertly photographed shoot-out staged in the Illinois State Building, a 14-story glass and metal bird cage that would have fit nicely into Hyams' previous film, "2010."

Up until then, though, "Running Scared" is nothing but the sum of its bits of business. There is a nice bit where Crystal sprays a curb with yellow paint, so that the villain's Mercedes, which is parked there, gets towed away. There are also dentist jokes. And there is a great deal of cloying buddydom, which is symbolized by the two buddies' mutual penchant for large cigars.

Hyams and his screen writers, Gary Devore and Jimmy Huston, aren't telling a story -- they're simply coming up with things for Crystal and Hines to occupy themselves with. Here Billy, here Gregory, here's a toy -- keep busy. It's the cinematic equivalent of baby-sitting.

Running Scared, opening today at area theaters, is rated R and contains violence, profanity, nudity and sexual situations.