Bad Company

Movie Information

Genre: Action Comedy
Director: Joel Schumacher
Starring: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Gabriel Macht, Kerry Washington
Rated: PG-13

Separately, the names Jerry Bruckheimer and Joel Schumacher are terrifying enough. The Bruckheimer name ensures big-name stars either sleep-walking through their roles or insanely miscast (or both), an inflated budget, a lot of noisy action, a massive promotional campaign and as little thought as possible. Schumacher’s signature on a film guarantees even more pointless gloss (almost always involving a lot of purple smoke) and vacuity, combined with increasingly desperate efforts at stylishness and a complete disregard for coherence. Basically, the combination of producer Bruckheimer and director Schumacher is a match made in heaven, since it neatly combines two of the most ardent practitioners of lowest-common-denominator filmmaking in one tidy package. It’s like getting two bad movies for the price of one, representing a savings of at least two hours out of your life. And Bad Company is indeed pretty bad. It’s not unwatchably bad. It’s certainly not the worst movie either man has put his hand to (to his credit, Bruckheimer seems to have taken Schumacher’s purple smoke away from him), but that’s not saying that much. It’s reasonably harmless, all the same, and it’s not groaning under the weight of self-conscious self-importance that marked Bruckheimer’s Pearl Harbor and Black Hawk Down. Of course, there has been a lot of borderline hysterical nonsense lobbed at the picture, saying that terrorists and the threat of a nuclear explosion on U.S. soil are not suitable material for a comedy. Much of this is spouted by critics who probably have Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove on their “Best Movies of All Time” list, and that’s a film that was made when the threat of nuclear destruction seemed just as likely as it does today, if not more so. Of course, Chaplin and Ernst Lubitsch were severely criticized for making comic use of the Nazis back in the 1940s, too. Messrs. Bruckheimer and Schumacher aren’t even in the same universe as Kubrick, Chaplin or Lubitsch, but the principle remains the same. What is most appalling here — apart from the waste of talent in front of the camera — isn’t the “unsuitable” material, but the complete lack of concern with even marginal reality, to a degree that suggests a contempt for the viewer. Early in the film, Chris Rock gets dumped by his girlfriend and heads to a hip-hop club for his stint as a DJ, only to express his feelings to those on the dance floor by subjecting them (and us) to Air Supply’s “All Out of Love,” which just happens to be right at hand from the club’s record selection. How extremely plausible. It only gets worse. According to the plot (or what passes for it), street-hustler Rock is the separated-at-birth twin brother of a murdered C.I.A. agent and is pushed into trying to pass for his late brother by C.I.A. agent Anthony Hopkins. The “education” of Rock’s street hustler into an imitation of his brother isn’t only nonsensical, it’s worse — unfunny. The humor never gets much beyond the running gag of Hopkins pouring water on his protege every morning at 5 a.m., which isn’t exactly clever and which you’ve already seen in the film’s trailer. It’s never even clear why the C.I.A. needs Rock, since the nuclear-arms dealers have been and continue to deal with Hopkins. Rock’s character seems to be present solely to spout one-liners and get shot at by Eastern European bad guys, who — judging by their marksmanship — must be the same boys who chased Owen Wilson all over Bosnia in Behind Enemy Lines. From a scripting standpoint that’s exactly why Rock is on board, but, for God’s sake, it oughtn’t look that way in terms of plot. There’s virtually no structure. The film just plods along and is occasionally broken up by thrill sequences that aren’t any more thrilling than most of the comedy is funny. The defusing-the-bomb finale not only isn’t thrilling, it’s jaw-droppingly old hat. I’m not even going to muse about why Anthony Hopkins chose to be in this movie, since the answer is obviously money — though apparently not enough money to keep him from stalking through the role in a seemingly vile humor. Rock isn’t any better served, but merely looks uncomfortable instead of angry, which is at least more sympathetic. It’s like a bad retread of an old Bob Hope spy comedy — My Favorie Blonde, My Favorite Spy, Call Me Bwana — with an extra half hour tacked on by filmmakers who think that spending a lot of money is a substitute for wit. It isn’t.

About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress from December 2000 until his death in June 2016. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

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