Saturday, October 18, 2008


The Anthony Hopkins & Chris Rock comedy espionage thriller "Bad Company," a slickly-made but superficial doomsday escapade about the CIA's war against terrorism, relies on utterly archaic clichés. Not only does "Bad Company" recycle the identical twin that steps into the shoes of the dead brother that he never-knew, but also the gray-haired spy master who must transform a rebellious rookie into a seasoned undercover agent with no time to spare.

Formula filmmaker Jerry Bruckheimer of "Armageddon" and "Black Hawk Down" provides a top-notch cast, atmospheric Czechoslovakian scenery, and a giddy Trevor Rabin orchestral score. Sadly, "Bad Company" lacks slam-bang, cliff-hanger heroics, an inventive plot and intimidating villains. Although director Joel Schumacher of "Batman Forever" (1995) and "A Time to Kill" (1996) keeps the throttle on the momentum wide-open, the second-rate Jason Richman and Michael ("6 Days, 7 Nights") Browning screenplay hampers him from drumming up enough suspense and tension. As far as Chris Rock fares, "Bad Company" surpasses last years' dreadful comedy "Down to Earth." Oscar winning thespian Anthony Hopkins has done far better cloak & dagger derring-do. Check out either "The Looking Glass War" (1970), where Hopkins taught another rookie spy tricks, or the Alistair MacLean epic "When Eight Bells Toll" from 1971. Nevertheless, the pleasure of watching Hopkins create a memorable character and the on-screen chemistry that he evokes with the abrasive but hilarious Rock makes "Bad Company" tolerably entertaining.

"Bad Company" opens in Prague. CIA agent Oaks (Anthony Hopkins of "Silence of the Lambs") and Pope (Chris Rock of "Lethal Weapon 4") are negotiating with black market Russian Mafia boss Adrik Vas (Peter Stormare of The Big Lebowski") to buy a nuclear bomb in a suitcase for $20 million dollars. Meanwhile, Vas' fearless rival Dragan Adjanic (Matthew Marsh of "Spy Game") and his multi-national suicidal hit squads want the bomb, too. First, Adjanic kills Pope. Second, Adjanic plants saboteurs in Vas' camp. Imagine Adjanic's surprise when he learns that Kevin Pope is alive and kicking in New York City! The CIA discovers that Pope had an unknown identical twin brother that authorities separated at birth. Jake Hayes (Chris Rock) suffered from a childhood illness that reduced the chances of his brother and he finding a suitable foster home, so an overzealous hospital attendant changed their names! Consequently, the brothers were split up permanently. When the CIA catches up with Jake, our hero has acquired a reputation as a chess-playing street hustler who scalps tickets. Jake agrees to impersonate Kevin for $100-thousand dollars. No sooner has Jake joined up than Adjanic's henchmen strike. Just when our heroes think that they have the situation in hand, the villains seize Jake's bride-to-be Nicole (Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon of "Double Take") and force a showdown in crowded Grand Central Station with the countdown clicking off seconds as they swap lead with each other.

First, neither creepy Peter Stormare nor gritty Matthew Marsh makes much of an impression as evil adversaries. Second, Jake never proves his mettle in combat. Third, Chris Rock's jokes are too few and far between. Fourth, the CIA blunders so badly you'll wonder if the title doesn't refer to them. Altogether, solid performances as well as a whirlwind pace serve to off-set "Bad Company's" monotonous melodramatic and hoary clichés.

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