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'Bad Company' takes plot from other films

Posted: Thursday, June 06, 2002

Terrorists obtain a stray nuke and easily smuggle it into the United States, where they intend to detonate it for no rational reason other than providing a crisis for CIA agents to defuse in a Hollywood action flick.

Didn't we just see this in ''The Sum of All Fears?''

A week after that nightmare-scenario thriller comes its flighty, frivolous cousin ''Bad Company,'' pairing Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock in a moderately entertaining action comedy.

The two leads draw a decent amount of laughs out of the predictable collision of Rock's loudmouth persona and Hopkins' straight-man reserve. The comedy makes up somewhat for the tepid, unimaginative action, a collection of stunts, chases and shootouts that are surprisingly commonplace considering ''Bad Company'' comes from Hollywood blast-master Jerry Bruckheimer, teaming for the first time with showy director Joel Schumacher.

''Bad Company'' is the latest arrival from a batch of terrorist movies postponed last year after the Sept. 11 attacks.

More so than Arnold Schwarzenegger's comic-book terrorism romp ''Collateral Damage,'' ''Bad Company'' is one whose delay was compulsory. Despite the movie's laugh factor, the images of pursuit and mayhem around the landmarks of Manhattan, ground zero for the film's villains, would have been too vexing for most viewers so soon after the destruction of the World Trade Center.

Even now, moments of ''Bad Company'' conjure disagreeable recollections of the Sept. 11 chaos. It's nothing that would fully deflate a comic caper where everyone knows the good guys will prevail, but the discomfit is enough to jerk audiences out of the story here and there.

Hopkins plays CIA honcho Gaylord Oakes, a man who has subsumed his life to the cause. His fellow agents are Oakes' family, namely, cool and cultured spy Kevin Pope (Rock), intermediary on a critical deal to obtain a stray nuclear device from a Russian black marketeer (Peter Stormare) before terrorists get their hands on it.

After Pope gets snuffed, the agency recruits his separated-at-birth identical twin, New York street hustler Jake Hayes, a character more in keeping with Rock's combination of pragmatic smarts and incendiary attitude. Oakes has nine days to transform Jake into a passable simulacrum of Pope to step in and complete the arms deal.

The filmmakers wisely imbue Jake with enough intelligence from the start that he makes the transition credibly, avoiding the plausibility gap of many fish-out-of-water tales.

''Bad Company'' is at its best early on, as Hopkins and Rock maneuver through a smarter-than-average scenario of mismatched buddies gradually feeling each other out.

Rock plays the whiny buffoon at times, but his character is refreshingly up to the challenge for the most part. Late in the game, Jake steamrolls a CIA boss with a glib stream of put-downs that would make proud John Cleese's taunting French knight in ''Monty Python and the Holy Grail.''

Through sheer, magisterial presence, Hopkins elevates a rather stereotyped role of world-weary spy master to a character with depth and genuineness. Hopkins deftly blends the cynicism of age with the steadfastness of youthful conviction, delivering with sincerity such statements of purpose as, ''I know it sounds hokey, but I honestly believe our lives are about something bigger than ourselves.''

Par for the Bruckheimer course, the production is slick almost to excess. Cinematogr-apher Darius Wolski beautifully renders the resplendent architecture of Prague, where much of ''Bad Company'' is set.

Sadly, the script lends little personality to the supporting players, including Kerry Washington as Jake's girlfriend, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon as Kevin's woman, and Gabriel Macht and Brooke Smith as CIA operatives.

''Bad Company,'' released by Disney's Touchstone Pictures, is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language. Running time: 116 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

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Motion Picture Association of America rating definitions:

G -- General audiences. All ages admitted.

PG -- Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 -- Special parental guidance strongly suggested for children under 13. Some material may be inappropriate for young children.

R -- Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

NC-17 -- No one under 17 admitted.



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