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Bad Company

movie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bad Company

Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock
Director: Joel Schumacher
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 117 Minutes
Release Date: June 2002
Genres: Action, Comedy, Suspense

*Also starring: Garcelle Beauvais, Gabriel Macht, Brooke Smith, Kerry Washington, Peter Stormare

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1.  Harvey Karten review follows movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review
2.  Susan Granger read the review movie review
3.  Steve Rhodes read the review movie reviewmovie review
4.  Dustin Putman read the review movie reviewmovie review

Review by Harvey Karten
2½ stars out of 4

What do people look for when they go to a thriller that pairs a comic actor with one who is deadly serious? My guess is probably laughs and the proverbial roller coaster ride. Does "Bad Company," which links the versatile Anthony Hopkins with one of the best of today's American comics, deliver? In part, yes. "Bad Company" is hip and works quite well during its first half when its title could have been "Pygmalion Meets Run DMC," but falters when the gunplay and car crashes become cookie-cutter and Chris Rock's lines, penned by Jason Richman and Michael Browning, run to corn instead of popping.. "Bad Company" is on the whole an entertaining popcorner with just the right chemistry between Hopkins and Rock, but once you can predict that the CIA people with their semiautomatic pistols will easily outgun the Russian mafiosi and the Yugoslav terrorists with their submachine guns, you're out of Prague and into Generic City.

Filmed by Darius A. Wolski in Europe's prettiest city and also the world's most exciting one--and directed by Joel Schumacher under the production stamp of Jerry "12.5 billion dollars" Bruckheimer-- "Bad Company" opens in the Czech Republic where Kevin Pope (Chris Rock in a double role) gets assassinated while saving the life of Agent Gaylord Oakes (Anthony Hopkins) during a CIA sting operation involving the purchase of a suitcase-enclosed nuclear bomb from a Russian mafia lieutenant (Peter Stormare). To conceal Pope's death the CIA brings his twin brother, Jake, into the fold, promising him enough money to allow him to marry his sweetheart, Julie (Kerry Washington).

The plot's conceit is that while the $20 million offered by American would-be terrorists cannot be matched by militant groups in other parts of the world, particularly the Balkans, the Yugoslavs must steal the bomb while getting rid of both the Americans and the Russians. (This is in a way similar to the plot of "The Sum of All Fears" which focuses on how a neo-Nazi group, hating both the Russians and the Americans, work to provoke a nuclear war between those two major powers.) The story itself offers no surprises, replete with a kidnaping and a little romance, though "Bad Company" is practically an art house indie when compared with the far more explosive ventures of Mr. Bruckheimer ("Armageddon," "Blackhawk Down").

Given the nature of the film as a comic thriller, director Joel Schumacher whose ability to amuse an audience with flat-out hilarity is best exemplified by his penning of "Car Wash" might have spent more time on the Pygmalion aspect of the tale. When we first meet the streetwise Jake, he's making hash of opponents in speed chess while simultaneously scalping tickets to sporting events on his cell phone. The CIA must make a man of culture and wealth from this raw material in order to pass him off as his unfortunate twin brother, giving him a knowledge of classical music to replace his love of hip hop and an appreciation of fine wine to substitute for his affinity for gulping Chateau Lafitte as though it came from a fraternity keg party. Shaved, coiffed and acculturated, Jake is given the names of the people he will meet at Prague's finest hotel.

Poking fun of a violent movie style by teaming actors like Jackie Chan with Chris Tucker is one way of subverting the genre. Pairing a serious performer like Anthony Hopkins with a comic partner is a better one. Schumacher puts us in good company for a while, only to run out of steam when Rock relies more on his signature wide-eyed surprise than on the Shavian wit that could have made this an impressive piece of work.

Copyright 2002 Harvey Karten

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