The Spy Who Came In From the Hood

Review: Bad Company

More a failed genetic experiment than an actual motion picture, Bad Company is a pathetically clumsy attempt to graft not just two completely different genres, but two actors who should never have appeared in the same film. The premise, for lack of a better word, behind Bad Company is so blatantly transparent you can almost smell the smoke rising from the wheels furiously spinning in the tiny brain of the Hollywood player who thought it up. If an action-comedy buddy pic teaming cultural opposites Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker can generate box office gold, the player's reptilian brain seems to say, how about pairing up popular African-American funnyman Eddie Murphy and Caucasian critics' darling Robert De Niro? Oh, it's already been done? Well, let's see what other old white thespians and young, brash, black comedians are out there. Hey, what about Chris Rock with Anthony Hopkins?

Bad Company is a sub-generic spy movie whose wisp of a plot is really just an excuse to allow Hopkins and Rock to share screen time. The skeletal storyline has something to do with terrorists attempting to detonate a nuclear weapon in the U.S., but we don't even get a sense of any of that until the last 20 minutes or so. Lazily scripted and almost weirdly formulaic, the movie wouldn't have had much impact even if The Sum of All Fears hadn't just raised the bar so significantly for this sort of thing.

The rest of Bad Company is all about juxtaposing Rock's loud, "edgy" shtick with Hopkins' steely understated presence. Everyone suffers for it. Rock plays a street hustler recruited by the CIA to impersonate his recently deceased twin brother, a top agent hot on the trail of the aforementioned baddies. The dead twin was as sophisticated an international traveler as the living brother is a creature of the streets (one likes Bach and skiing, the other b-ball and rap), which gives Rock lots of opportunities for culture-clash comedy.

Most of those opportunities are wasted. Rock can be very funny in his way (although infrequently here), but he is not and probably never will be an actor of any substance. The comedian often appears ill at ease on screen and seems incapable of even carrying the weight of the relatively undemanding dramatic dimensions of his role in Bad Company. Next to Hopkins, he simply comes off as a lightweight. It doesn't help that everyone is often saddled with dialogue so cringe-worthy that even Hopkins can barely make it sound classy. Adding insult to injury, most of the actors surrounding Rock are playing even bigger cartoons than he (Peter Stormare, as a Russian heavy, is particularly embarrassing).

The movie gets better toward the end, when the middling comedy and forced star "interactions" take a back seat to a series of relatively exciting action sequences, but, as is often the case with projects like this, it's too little too late. One can only wonder how director Joel Schumacher managed to snag Hopkins for this project. It's reasonable to assume cash was a major incentive, but probably so too was Schumacher's recent ascension to critical acclaim with his arty war film Tigerland.

Lest we (or Hopkins) forget — and Bad Company serves as ample reminder — this is still the same man who gave the world Batman Forever and introduced us all to a modern superhero dynamic defined by prefabricated latex nipples, metallic codpieces and perfectly delineated, armor-plated buttocks.

Lance Goldenberg can be reached at [email protected] or 813-248-8888, ext. 157

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