Directed by Joel Schumacher. USA/Czech Republic. 2002.
Sitting down to watch Bad Company, the preview for the new M. Night Shyamalan film Signs, started flashing across the screen (Signs being the story of crop circles equalling immediate alien invasion). I don’t believe I have ever seen the entire preview, because I do not enjoy the embarrassing experience of screaming in terror in a public place. I tend to shut my eyes right after Mel Gibson’s daughter arrives onscreen to announce “There’s a monster outside my room can I have a glass of water?” There is a lot of creepy music, and I know Mel says “It will pass. Don’t be afraid.” at least five times, but I have no idea what it’s in reference to, as I get too scared to watch. My heart, I think, has actually stopped the 4 times I have seen this preview right at the point when Mel, against all forms of common sense, starts across his kitchen to open his door containing the alien form, and even though I know every time, that the alien is about to leap out and skitter across the floor bringing doom with him (and possibly breaking some antique dishes) I jump every time. Yes, Signs is clearly trying to frighten me to death, and if that method doesn’t work, Chris Rock’s performance in Bad Company is Hollywood’s backup homicide plan. If fright doesn’t work they’ll do it through irritation.
Bad Company tells the story of a clandestine government operative, Kevin Pope. While on a mission to buy back a nuclear bomb from terrorists Kevin is shot. The CIA is then left with only one option in order to complete their mission; recruit Kevin’s ticket scalping, smart aleck twin brother Jake Hayes to go meet the terrorists as Kevin, and buy the bomb back for them.
Chris Rock (Down to Earth, Nurse Betty) does double duty as both Kevin Pope and Jake Hayes. The problem here is that Rock can never quite decide whether or not he wants to be himself or try to play a character. As Kevin Pope he’s clearly trying too hard, as his every minute comes off with all the emotional depth of a wooden plank. He is about as much of a convincing federal agent as I am a convincing Queen of England. As Jake Hayes, he’s obviously trying to create the character of the lovable loser, but fails in this (for me at least) as well. Jake is set up to be the character that “the system forgot.” Jake doesn’t get to have all the opportunities of his brother, he is scalping tickets just to make ends meet. The thing that got to me was that in order to make the character that the system is out to get likeable, he needs to have ambition, a dream to be something bigger than he is. Jake doesn’t have any of those things (making me cheer for the girlfriend’s sudden surge of good sense when she thinks about leaving him). Rock’s reactions to everything from his girlfriends departure, to the stress of undergoing training are totally unnatural. It’s absolutely fine with me to play the role of the smart-ass. All I ask from the performers taking those roles is to be FUNNY. I don’t think anyone laughed at anything Rock said or did. Once.
Going from adequate to wonderful, Anthony Hopkins (The Bounty, the upcoming Red Dragon) plays Hayes’/Pope’s mentor Agent Oakes. I only have one quibble with Hopkins’ performance. (Which will in fact come out as a backhanded compliment.) He doesn’t blend into a crowd. There is a particular scene in which CIA agents are shadowing Jake Hayes’ and Oakes, is supposed to be blending into a crowd of people playing chess. The only flaw here is that Hopkins is not a person designed to blend in. His magnetism forces him to stick out. It’s the only option he has. That being said, Hopkins does give Oakes a wonderful cool, sarcastic wit. (And a wonderful smile. Ironically enough you generally see that wonderful smile immediately pre-pouring of ice cold water on Rock’s head.) In his relatively supporting role, (which is a shame) Hopkins gives his character a great depth, making you feel that you know Oakes as a good man, who is trying not to let his morals get squished under the piles of government bureaucracy that he would have to endure on a daily basis. I found myself wanting to know more about Oakes as the movie went on. The one thing that this movie does showcase, that you will have a great difficulty finding anywhere else is Hopkins BRILLIANT comic timing. There was a reason no one was laughing with Rock. They were all laughing with Sir Hopkins instead.
I was very impressed by the performance of up and comer Gabriel Macht (Behind Enemy Lines, American Outlaws). Admittedly he’s not given much to do as Agent Seale (Oakes’ underling) but he is fun to watch all the same. He fills his every moment onscreen with confidence, and a good natured swagger, and is (I would say) the one actor out there capable of stepping into Harrison Ford’s shoes as the epitome of the square jawed action hero. Macht is the extraordinarily handsome version of the boy next door (well Hollywood’s vision of him).
The one thing that kept this movie from being up there with Jerry Bruckheimer’s earlier efforts (The Rock, Con Air) was the arrogance of it’s lead. Chris Rock in his every nuance just isn’t trying. Maybe because he doesn’t have the talent. Maybe because he thought he didn’t have to. My advice? When the person you spend the majority of your screen time with is Anthony Hopkins you had better pull out all the stops. Rock didn’t, and that irritated me to no end.
Bad Company boasts
two boisterous performances (Macht, and Hopkins), car chases, and explosions
galore. It is, if we’re going to be completely honest, as fluffy as a cotton
ball but I happen to think that’s what texture summer movies are supposed
to have. If you can overlook Chris Rock, and if you think The Sum of
all Fears looks too heavy, you’ll enjoy giving Bad Company a
go. Definitely worth a summer big-screen visit.
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