Bad Company

Sir Anthony Hopkins should be more discrete choosing which movies to make. If he keeps making donkey droppings like “Bad Company,” the Queen may not only ask for his title back, but ask him to give up his citizenship.

Since “Silence of the Lambs,” Hopkins’ stock as one our greatest living actors has gone through the roof, but that hasn’t stopped him from making the occasional bad movie. Now comes “Bad Company,” a simpleton action buddy comedy that is as bad as they get.

The only thing challenging about the film is the audience’s volition to make it to the final credits. This isn’t a B-movie, it’s a C-movie: convoluted, contrived and crummy.

“Bad Company” is the second Touchstone film (“Big Trouble” was the first) postponed from its Fall 2001 berth after the 9/11 terrorist attack. Both films deal with terrorism and nuclear bombs, but unlike the recent “The Sum of All Fears,” treat the subject as comic rather than cautionary.

It’s not fair to blame negative reactions to “Big Trouble” and “Bad Company” on the events of September 11. If both films were released last summer my response would have been exactly the same. Unlike wine, bad movies don’t improve with age.

I don’t mind films that make light of terrorists (James Cameron did it best in “True Lies”), but I resent filmmakers who retread old ideas with different stars and dish it up as something new. What Director Joel Schumacher and the writers serve us is a warmed-over variation of Walter Hill’s trend-setting “48 Hours.”

While I wouldn’t mind spending “48 Hours” with Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy in that film, two hours with “Bad Company” is two hours too much. The only chemistry evident here was used to develop the film negative.

“Bad Company” is a by-the-book buddy comedy, and even then writers Jason Richman and Michael Browning never make it past the first page. It’s all give and take with a plot thread so worn and tattered it instantly snaps under it’s own weight.

“Bad Company” feels pumped up, a Pauley Shore cable film pretending to be a real movie. “Bad Company” makes about as much sense as edible pit bull panties. I mean, what’s the point? Forget about logic. The script is riddled with plot holes so big they become black holes, sucking any resemblance of logic into its empty void.

Even as a big screen cartoon, “Bad Company” feels like a cheat. Every word of the script relies on contrivance and implausibility. Chris Rock plays two characters, one an undercover CIA agent named Kevin Pope, who is on assignment with senior agent Gaylord Oakes (Hopkins) in Prague. They’re there to negotiate the exchange of a nuclear weapon, but when Pope is killed in a shootout, the CIA is caught between a rock and a hard place.

Their solution is locate Pope’s long-lost twin brother Jake Hayes (Rock), a New York street hustler trying to earn enough money scalping tickets to keep his girlfriend from relocating out of state. Once a deal is negotiated, the CIA and Oakes have nine days to whip Hayes into shape, train him to impersonate his brother and become a passable undercover agent.

While the premise presents numerous opportunities for a good laugh and some solid action, the writers and director fail to deliver. It’s sad to see good actors like Hopkins, Rock (who in my opinion is the funniest black comic working in films), and the usually reliable Peter Stormare waste their time and talent.

Hopkins looks bored throughout the entire film, injecting just enough presence to earn a paycheck. Except towards the end of the film, Rock is never allowed to be to Rock. He looks constrained by the lame mechanics of the script. “Bad Company” might have been a better film if the writers and director allowed Rock and Hopkins to make the script their own and improvise more.

Stormare adds to his catalog of comic villains with Adrik Vas, the Russian black market dealer who holds all the cards. Like most of “Bad Company,” those cards turn out to be jokers.

Behind the camera, Schumacher is also a wild card. Just when I was ready to dismiss him, Schumacher delivers the taut and penetrating “Tigerland.” Then along comes “Bad Company” and erases all that good will.

Maybe Schumacher is tired or perhaps bored, but he has lost his edge. There’s nothing about “Bad Company” that suggests vision. It’s about as bland and tasteless as that clear broth they serve in hospitals.


The title of latest buddy comedy says it all


Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Gabriel Macht, Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon, Peter Stormare, John Slattery, Kerry Washington. Directed by Joel Schumacher. Rated PG-13. 117 Minutes.


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