The second film in two weeks about the threat of nuclear weapons,
"Bad Company," directed by Joel Schumacher (1999's "8mm"), is like
a dumbed-down, comedic version of "The Sum of All Fears." It is also
more entertaining. Fleeting enjoyment of the picture, however, does
not necessarily add up to a notably good one, as its generic premise
and low-scale action sequences prove to be a mostly forgettable affair.
When his partner is killed in the line of duty, CIA operative Gaylord
Oakes (Anthony Hopkins) has no choice but to turn to small-time con
artist Jake Hayes (Chris Rock) for help. It seems Jake is the long-lost
twin brother of the now-deceased agent, and if he does pose as him
and accompany Oakes to retrieve a nuclear bomb, it will be intercepted
by a Russian terrorist set on detonating it in New York City. Jake,
whose beloved long-time girlfriend, Julie (Kerry Washington), has
just begrudgingly broke up with him to take a job in Seattle, accepts
the dangerous proposition in exchange for a large sum of money he
hopes will convince Julie to come back to him.
The first hour of "Bad Company" is light-hearted and even fun, as
Jake is given lessons to be able to impersonate his more refined brother,
whom he never knew. While Chris Rock (2000's "Nurse Betty") is at
little risk in being mistaken for a top-notch thespian, he does bring
a certain amount of energy to Jake, and knows exactly how to sell
his one-liners. If his dialogue grows too jokey and unrealistic based
on the increasingly dire situations in which they are recited in,
Rock remains likable protagonist.
The second half ultimately gets bogged down in a succession of cliches
and bullets. While three action scenes--an extended car chase, a cat-and-mouse
hunt through an apartment building, and a climactic race against time
to stop the nuclear device from going off--are professionally executed,
they also hold the key to where "Bad Company" most relevantly fails.
All 117 minutes of the film have been seen in so many other movies,
and oftentimes on a more intelligent and grander scale, that there
is absolutely no reason to take the journey again. Occasionally funny
moments are sprinkled throughout an otherwise tepid and predictable plot.
Starring opposite Chris Rock, and less successful, is Anthony Hopkins
(2001's "Hannibal"), as Gaylord Oakes. Oakes is strictly an underdeveloped
character, and the usually reliable Hopkins has a difficult time bringing
him to life. The only possible interest one can get from Hopkins here
is getting to see him involved in action scenes--a rarity for him.
As Jake's girlfriend, Julie, Kerry Washington (2001's "Save the Last
Dance") brings the right amount of warmth to her scenes to make her
relationship with Jake more than a throwaway one. Meanwhile, Garcelle
Beauvais-Nilon (2001's "Double Take") is a fetching presence as Jake's
brother's ex-girlfriend, Nicole. Her character is a purely extraneous
one, though, and this 15-minute subplot could have been dropped altogether
without any bearing on the movie.
"Bad Company," which was pushed back from its original Fall 2001 release
date for obvious reasons, makes light of a possible catastrophe. If
the film starts out well as a comedy, the climax misguidedly keeps
this joking tone, even when the fate of the country is at the hands
of a nuclear weapon. With Chris Rock at the forefront of every scene,
"Bad Company" avoids ever becoming boring. What it can't dodge is
a worn-out screenplay (credited to Jason Richman and Michael Browning)
that leaves the viewer without anything to think about or contemplate
once the end credits have rolled.
Copyright © 2002 Dustin Putman