NOW PLAYING: Bad Company

Posted: Monday, June 10, 2002

There's no doubt about it, the CIA is certainly hot right now. From the hit shows Alias, The Agency, and 24, to last week's #1 movie, The Sum of All Fears, Hollywood has embraced America's favorite spy shop. However, their latest effort, Bad Company, may show that things are starting to wear a little thin.

It would be too easy to title this review something like, "Bad" Company, although I'm sure that's been used more than once. At first glance, Company seems to have everything going for it. It's got lots of action, lots of laughs, and an interesting, though rather cliched plot. Chris Rock plays Jake Hayes, a college drop-out who spends his day scalping tickets and hustling people at chess. Little does he know that he has, or should I say "had", a twin brother working for the CIA. During a high stakes sting on a rogue Russian arms dealer, the twin is assassinated by a rival buyer. Of course, now the agency needs Jake to stand in for his brother and make sure the deal goes down without a hitch. Jake's partner is the ever dapper, ever serious Anthony Hopkins, a seasoned agent who can't believe that this cockamamie plan could ever work, and that Jake's hip-hop shenanigans are going to get everyone killed. This particular brand of action comedy comes to us from the master of such work, Jerry Bruckheimer. And, while you can't expect a whole heck of a lot from a movie like this, Bruckheimer has done it much better.

The movie starts out promising. Rock's rapid-fire humor will have you rolling, and the action and intrigue are appropriately engaging. For the first hour or so, Bad Company lives up to it's potential. But then it all starts to fall apart. Without any clear idea of how to wrap up the conflict, a tired and rather familiar nuke-on-the-loose plot line, director Joel Schumacher opts for disappointing blinking red countdowns and run of the mill shootouts. That, I could have lived with, had it not been coupled with a series of inane, contrived, and completely unbelievable leaps of narrative faith. Should I care that a group of terrorists are able to get themselves, all their guns, and nuclear weapon from Prague to New York City, and then find and kidnap Hayes' girlfriend in what seems to be no more than twenty minutes? Does it matter that I am expected to believe that highly trained surveillance experts would tail a completely unsuspecting subject by peeling out and giving chase at a distance of maybe ten yards? You might be thinking exactly what my wife expressed to me after we left the theater. "What did you expect? All those movies are stupid!" While I agree that these kind of movies are not anywhere approaching Oscar winner caliber, there is a certain satisfaction in watching an overblown summer confection. It's my theory of McDonald's hamburgers. I love the Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Now, if I were to compare it to a really good hamburger, it would lose hands down. But it's not really a fair comparison, because sometimes what I want is exactly that Quarter Pounder. It's almost as if it's not really a hamburger at all, but a totally separate food group. Anyway, my point is that the fact that most of these kind of movies are unbelievable is beside the point. I realize that Bad Boys and The Last Boy Scout are stupid, but I really enjoyed them because they did what they promised to do without falling apart in the end.

Part of the reason Bad Company comes unraveled is due to the fact that the writers failed to follow the KISS rule. Keep it simple, stupid. Again, this is not to say that a good movie is one with a one-note plot and a whole lotta explosions. What I'm saying is that if you are producing a big budget action comedy, don't get so bogged down in arcane plot points and details that will force you to have to keep everything straight later. This movie has three sets of bad guys, who not only double cross, but "triple cross" each other, thee identities for the main character, two for everyone else, and three separate love interests to keep track of, not to mention the political leanings of umpteen different Eastern European splinter groups. And on top of that, stop giving Anthony Hopkins such terrible lines. The man is an incredible actor, an Oscar winner who can play anyone you want. Don't make him prove it by getting down and dirty with hip-hop slang. It's embarrassing.

Bad Company will, I'm sure, do very well at the box office. Chris Rock is a great draw, and the preview looks really funny. In fact, Rock is very funny for most of the movie. However, by the end, when he should finally realize the gravity of the situation he's in, the jokes just keep on coming, falling mostly on deaf ears, judging from audience where I went to see the film. That's not to say the end isn't funny in another, unintential way. Sometimes going to see a bad movie with a group of friends is as much fun a seeing a good one. I guess it all just depends on the company you keep. Grade: C-

Bad Company is rated PG-13 for language and violence.

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