BLUE STEEL

R, 1989, 103 minutes, MGM/UA, $89.95.

When Henry Higgins wondered why can't a woman be more like a man, it wasn't "Blue Steel's" Officer Megan Turner he had in mind. Played by Jamie Lee Curtis, Megan is a sod-plain rookie cop up to her shoulder holster in penis envy. Next to this gal, RoboCop comes off prissy as a French waiter. Only 24 hours after graduation from the New York Police Academy, Megan fatally shoots an armed robber in a supermarket holdup. When the gunman's weapon is not found and the witnesses are unable to corroborate her story, Megan is suspended. No one noticed when Eugene Hunt (Ron Silver), a handsome commodities broker, picked up the slain perpetrator's .44 magnum. Eugene would be the perfect catch if only he weren't a psychopath -- the same one who has been carving Megan's name on those bullets that keep turning up in corpses around town. But like most otherwise competent professional women, the astute cop loses her head when Eugene comes a courting with pretty words and champagne flutes in the rain. Will she or won't she get wise to this wacko? Kathryn Bigelow directs this gushing salute to firepower from a violent and tedious screenplay co-written with Eric Red. It is a mean and unsavory celebration of misplaced misogyny milked for dollars, a mindless soup of urban neurosis and sexual loathing. A case of slam, bam, no thankee ma'am. Rita Kempley

DOWNTOWN

R, 1990, 96 minutes, 20th Century Fox, $89.98.

"Downtown," an urban cop comedy starring Anthony Edwards and Forest Whitaker, is an exercise in schizoid movie making. It doesn't know whether it wants to be fast and cheap and dirty or likably cute -- a piece of trash or thoughtful character piece that's just pretending to be trash. If director Richard Benjamin had made "Downtown" just a little more schizoid it might have been more interesting, but it still wouldn't have been any good. It's cops again, white cops and black, working together hand in hand to rid our cities of crime. The white cop is a Boy Scout type named Alex (Edwards) who listens to Beach Boys music and is too nice to live. His beat is a suburb of Philly where it's considered a crime wave if somebody boosts a Schwinn. But when he tries to ticket a wealthy local bigwig (David Clennon) for speeding, he's sent to a fate worse than Beirut -- downtown. That's where he meets his partner, Dennis (Whitaker), a detective with a nutty streak about the width of the parkway. It's also where the serious cliches kick in. The following is a partial account: Dennis, child of the streets, won't give Alex, who's private-school-educated, the time of day because, we assume, he's a know-nothing white man. The ice is broken, though, when the two men duke it out and we find that Dennis is holding back not because Alex is white but because he's lost a partner before and just cares too damn much to let anybody get close again. About the performances, one can only say that Forest Whitaker is much too good an actor for this material, and Anthony Edwards is not nearly good enough. Benjamin, the director, seems just about to have found his level. Hal Hinson

TORRENTS OF SPRING

PG-13, 1990, 102 minutes, $89.99.

Timothy Hutton, Nastassja Kinski and Valeria Golino play a little hankski-pankski in Jerzy Skolimowski's slushy adaptation of this Turgenev romance. An empty but extremely well-dressed costume drama, it serves best as a showcase for the wardrobe mistress and whoever trained the cooing doves. Hutton is an aristocratic Russian, Dimitri, who, while visiting Germany, falls in love with Golino as Gemma, the daughter of an Italian pastry maker. Alas, Kinski's femme fatale, Maria, spots the blissful pair at a country fair and becomes determined to destroy their innocent love. Alas, Dimitri, now engaged to Gemma, proves an easy conquest for Maria. Bosoms heave and manhood stirs as the two slake their longing in a slo-moment out in the barn. Dimitri vows to follow her to the ends of the earth. Reminiscent of 1988's "Dark Eyes," this international tale of a besotted weakling has neither the sophistication of that Chekhov adaptation nor of Marcello Mastroianni in the leading role. Hutton, not exactly anybody's idea of a moody Russian muffin, is inclined to whimper and wipe his nose on the drapery. Rita Kempley

FLASHBACK

R, 1990, 108 minutes, Paramount, $91.95.

Back in the '60s, Huey Walker stood for something. His quiver stocked with irreverent jokes, he was a shaggy-haired archer firing bratty arrows into the uptight heart of the establishment. As the decade drew to a close, though, he got himself arrested on a malicious mischief charge for uncoupling Spiro Agnew's railroad car during a whistle-stop tour of Oregon. Now, 20 years later, he's turned himself over to the local authorities, and the FBI, eager to even the score after its earlier embarrassment, sends a still-wet-behind-the-ears agent named Buckner to bring him to trial. This is the situation at the outset of "Flashback," Franco Amurri's bad-trip action comedy starring Dennis Hopper and Kiefer Sutherland. And before things get better and we can all go home, they get much worse. As soon as the spit-polished young agent gets Huey on the train, the unreconstructed love child starts working on his head, playing mind games, all in the hopes of getting Buckner so confused that he'll be able to engineer yet another escape. And sure enough, the kid turns out to be a perfect sucker. After Huey claims he has slipped acid into his water, Buckner becomes convinced that he's tripping and, taking Doctor Huey's advice, begins knocking back the tequila to offset the effects. Hopper plays Huey as a kind of cartoon version of himself -- he's playing his own legend, which in addition to being grotesquely square, seems a tad premature. Sutherland isn't effective either, but then at least he isn't making a tawdry spectacle of himself. With movies like this, you could learn to despise the '60s. Hal Hinson