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'Bad Company'

'Bad Company' takes a lighthearted look at nuclear threat

Friday, June 07, 2002

By Ron Weiskind, Post-Gazette Movie Editor

"Bad Company" takes itself a little more seriously than you would expect from a movie starring Chris Rock, much less a Jerry Bruckheimer action film that at first glance seems patterned after such high-octane salt-and-pepper screen shakers as "Lethal Weapon" and "Rush Hour."

 
 
'Bad Company'

RATING: PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language.

PLAYERS: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock.

DIRECTOR: Joel Schumacher.

WEB SITE: badcompany
.movies.com

CRITIC'S CALL:

   
 

On the other hand, "Bad Company" is just a bit too flip and formulaic for a movie about terrorists trying to acquire a nuclear device so they can detonate it in the heart of Manhattan. Yeah, that could be a real knee-slapper to go along with the Osama video.

At least "The Sum of All Fears" placed its nuke in Baltimore, which didn't experience a catastrophic terrorist attack nine months ago, and treated the subject with something more akin to the gravity it deserves.

Other than leaving a taste of radioactive ash in my mouth, "Bad Company" also perpetuates some sturdy movie cliches -- the mismatched cop team (here, they're CIA agents); the amateur getting thrown in against the professionals; the black actor who regresses during a moment of jeopardy to screaming in fear and popping his eyes like a servant in a Three Stooges short; the clock ticking down on Armageddon while the hero tries to disarm the bomb. At least he doesn't ask what color wire he should cut.

Alas, I think screenwriters Jason Richman and Michael Browning may have tried to give Rock's character at least a little depth. But this excellent stand-up comic may not be a good enough actor to make us believe him as a sobersides.

He doesn't get a lot of help. Bruckheimer and director Joel Schumacher can't stop themselves from trying to force some laughs at the expense of the character.

Rock portrays Jake Hayes, who is essentially a medium-tech scalper. He takes orders for tickets to sporting events over his cell phone while playing chess in the park.

What he doesn't know is that he was separated at birth from a twin brother, Kevin Pope, who is a CIA agent -- or was, until he was killed in the line of duty just nine days before a deal to acquire a nuclear device from an arms dealer, thereby keeping it out of the hands of terrorists.

So the CIA decides Jake must take his place with whatever training they can give him in nine days. Kevin's partner, Gaylord Oakes (Anthony Hopkins, so laid-back he could be Perry Como), is dubious but doesn't have any better ideas. So he bullies Jake and butts heads with him to prepare him for the deadly mission ahead, knowing -- ta-da! -- the fate of the world may depend on it.

I find Jake interesting for several reasons. He really loves his girlfriend, Julie (Kerry Washington), to the point of resisting temptation during the unexpected visit of Kevin's almost irresistible girlfriend, Nicole (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon). Yet there's an edge to his hurt when Julie says she might move away that makes him seem a little cruel.

He's smart enough to get the drop (sort of) on Oakes at one point during their training. He's cool enough to fool people into thinking he's Kevin. But knowing what's at stake, is he really going to check into the fanciest hotel suite he ever imagined on the day before the fateful deal and immediately call for room service in the form of a trio of manicure girls and a bucket of caviar?

It's only a movie, folks.

We can no longer say that about the possibility of a terrorist nuking New York, which is why the usual comedy business doesn't seem quite appropriate here.

If anything, the plot of "Bad Company" resembles that of "The Peacemaker," a bad George Clooney movie of a few years back in which he was a rogue military man working alongside scientist Nicole Kidman. Both movies featured Balkan terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons by violent means and smuggling them into New York City while the heroes try to find and disarm the bombs before they go off.

Maybe Hollywood should try it sometime -- find the bombs before they go off to theaters.

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