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Bad Company   D

Touchstone Pictures

Year Released: 2002
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Joel Schumacher
Writers: Jason Richman, Michael Browning, Gary Goodman, David Himmelstein
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Matthew Marsh, Gabriel Macht, Kerry Washington, Adoni Maropis, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon.

Review by Rob Vaux

Once more, the Bruckheimer cometh. No summer would be complete without another gobbler from the Lord of the Turkeys, and 2002's model hits right on schedule. We've got a double entendre title -- Bad Company -- that could be slapped on any movie from the last two decades; a pair of mismatched stars (Chris Rock and Anthony Hopkins) whose nominal chemistry is supposed to excuse their paper-thin characters; a preposterous plot that exists solely to hang a lot of gunfights and car chases on; and a schlockmeister director (Joel Schumacher) with just enough pretension to ask us to take this dreck seriously. How does he keep doing it after all these years?

Summer hack jobs like Bad Company are usually forgivable, but Bruckheimer's efforts have looked particularly creaky of late. Time was, his films would cover up their soulless core with frantic (and sometimes entertaining) energy. Bad Company isn't concerned enough to bother. The setup is slow and convoluted, the action tedious and dull. It lacks even the standard seizure-inducing editing techniques -- an ironically refreshing sign that nevertheless does nothing to justify our attention. The corporate mentality that put this film together is all tapped out; we're left with the empty husk.

The most ominous sign is Hopkins, playing CIA Agent Gaylord Oakes like a somnambulist on cough syrup. When an actor of his caliber can't even be bothered to phone it in, we know we're in trouble. He's saddled with a nakedly mechanical plotline that asks him to mentor Rock's street-smart ticket scalper in the ways of international espionage. Y'see, the scalper unknowingly had a twin brother who worked for Oakes, but was killed while trying to track down a nuclear bomb. So they need Rock to imitate his brother long enough to fool the sellers, nab the weapon, and keep the world safe for democracy. Such a dubious setup still could have made for a fun movie, had it applied itself towards anything but first-weekend ticket sales. The characters swing wildly in moods and personality, adopting whatever traits the filmmakers think will amuse us at the time. The usual spate of action scenes play like a mid-80s cop show, and are far too infrequent to pump up the crowd. The appallingly routine sequences on display won't cut it in these post-Crouching Tiger days.

As for the stars, they function decently together, though they can't manage much more than that. Rock can be a very funny man (and he has some good one-liners here, despite the largely witless script) but he has a long way to go before he can handle even nominal dramatic roles like this one. As for Hopkins... well, Hopkins should know better. I can't remember the last time he had a role worthy of his talent, and Bad Company, unfortunately, does nothing to alleviate the condition. The pair gets little help from Schumacher, never a sterling director in the best of times, who seems to treat the material more as a warm-up exercise than anything worth paying for. There's the usual array of contrived mayhem, some sneering Eurotrash bad guys (plus their swarthy Arab henchmen -- classy touch, guys), and a list of clichés old enough to remember the Hayes Code. Yet Schumacher invests it with pseudo-serious moments, a faux thoughtfulness would be laughable if he didn't seem to genuinely believe in it. If you're going to produce a movie as appallingly by-the-numbers as this one, please don't try to delude us into thinking it has any merit.

Fifteen years ago, a film like Bad Company may have been cute. Now, with the likes of Spider-Man and Insomnia to compete with, it plays like an over-the-hill JV squad. The routines are old, and the payoff isn't worth the inadequate efforts it makes to entertain us. It will be interesting to see how long it lasts out there -- far more interesting than anything it puts on-screen. This is a movie on autopilot, too tired and broken down even to find an appropriate place to crash.

Review published 06.10.2002.

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