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movie review out of 4 Movie Review: Bait

Starring: Jamie Foxx, David Morse
Director: Antoine Fugua
Rated: R
RunTime: 119 Minutes
Release Date: September 2000
Genres: Comedy, Action

*Also starring: Doug Hutchison, Kimberly Elise, Mike Epps, Jamie Kennedy, David Paymer, Robert Pastorelli, Nestor Serrano

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Antoine Fuqua ("The Replacement Killers") aims to hook us with his "Bait," but only the hungriest are going to bite. Those who do fall prey will find the meal less than fulfilling but you can bet your last worm that they'll probably go back for more and more and more in years to come. Not that "Bait" lacks entertainment value, if you can't get enough car crashes, explosions, feats of derring-do and the lure of intermittent comic touches from a guy who has racked up heady box-office figures in urban markets. But ultimately this "Bait" is, as its title gives away, just another decoy that'll take you away from more substantial fare in other waters.

The narrative is motivated by gold, 42 million dollars' worth- -though I can't imagine how the bandits expect to fence the bars. Judging by the fees my dentist charges for a root canal, I'm sure he could take half the stash, but who's going to spring for the other 21 mil? But that's not Fuqua's concern nor does it distress scripters Andrew Scheinman ("North"), Adam Scheinman ("Mickey Blue Eyes") and Tony Gilroy ("Armageddon"), who probably rely on the animators and editors and photographers and Roberto Fiumano who mans the Rotoscoper--and oh, yes, Doug Sloan, the horse wrangler-- to provide eye candy where suspense would be nicer and a solid rap track including Derrick Fitzgerald's "Back in Deez Streetz" and Ice Cube's "24 Mo Hours" to cue us that somethin' is about to go down.

The opening scene is best, however hackneyed, ironically cross cutting a robbery of the nation's most secure room which houses the gold with the attempted burglary of a couple of buckets of prawns from the kitchen of a Brooklyn restaurant. (The prawns have nothing to do with the title of the movie, but comedian Jamie Foxx can get mighty witty each time he explains to fellow mobsters and cops alike that prawns are not the same as shrimp. In other words, he's a big-time robber after all.) When Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx) is easily captured and imprisoned, he gets a cryptic message from his heart-challenged, gold-digging cellmate (Robert Pastorelli)--something about the Bronx Zoo and there's-no- place-like-home--that makes the successful computer-hacking bandit at large, Bristol(Doug Hutchison) suspect that Sanders knows the location of the loot. Aware that small-time crook Sanders could be used to capture Bristol--who had senselessly executed to bound-and-gagged guards at the Gold Reserve--Sanders is knocked unconscious at the orders of Treasury Department chief investigator Edgar Clenteen (David Morse), implanted with a tracking device, and set free. Clenteen has no regard for the life of the small-timer, stating "you know what happens to bait," and since the killer thinks that Sanders knows something when he actually does not, Sanders can be in for some deep quandaries.

"Bait" is part-comic, part romantic-sentimental, and mostly a plain-ol' cop movie, succeeding best whenever the generally humorless David Morse is on the screen and least when Jamie Foxx is using his motormouth demeanor to make up with his girl friend, Lisa (Kimberly Elise), who had recently given birth to Sanders' son. Some clutter is provided by a subplot involving Sanders' brother Stevie (Mike Epps), who does some stolen goods trafficking, and whose underworld work leads Sanders into problems with a couple of idiot mobsters.

The Toronto and New York photography by Tobias Schleissler ("The Guilty") and production design by Peter Jamison ("Carrie 2") are convincing enough, especially when complemented by Edward Bell's editing--at its best in an extended scene at a race track that finds Alvin Sanders jockeying for position against a field of better contenders. Though the movie should ideally be oceanic in suspense, this pedestrian "Bait" gets no fish out of water.

Copyright 2000 Harvey Karten

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