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Bad Company (2002)

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Score: 4/10

Genre: Action Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.

Release Date: June 7th, 2002 MPAA Rating: PG-13

Director: Joel Schumacher Actors: Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock, Peter Stormare, Gabriel Macht, Kerry Washington, Garcelle Beauvais, Matthew Marsh, John Slattery, Brooke Smith, Daniel Sunjata

I

n Prague, CIA Agent Kevin Pope, using the cover identity Michael Turner (Chris Rock), a dealer in fine antiquities, plays a game of chess against Russian gangster Adrik Vas (Peter Stormare), as they wait for a third party – undercover officer Oakes (Anthony Hopkins). When Oakes finally arrives, the trio discusses a $30 million payment to acquire a nuclear device, while also dropping off a downpayment and gaining a cell phone, with instructions to wait 10 days for the final pickup. Upon leaving the meeting, Turner is tailed and then killed by unknown assassins – likely a rival terrorist organization wishing to cut out the competition for the nuke.

This leaves the CIA in a sticky situation. Vas still has the goods and he’s unaware that his contact has been murdered. But a striking coincidence arises when the CIA discovers Jacob Hayes (also Chris Rock), a streetwise New Jersey ticket scalper and chess player, who bears a strong resemblance to Turner – because they were identical twins separated at birth. After getting dumped by his girl (Kerry Washington), Hayes is better prepared to take on a hazardous mission – a 9-day stand-in as his brother, during which he must learn to walk and talk like a highly skilled, properly educated agent. “This is gonna be a disaster.”

Hopkins is immediately convincing as a tough, seasoned, veteran spy. He barely has to do anything but stare. Rock, however, is difficult to take seriously in any role. This quality works to a degree, since he’s supposed to be woefully unprepared for assuming the part of a clandestine operative. But it also plays against the sincerity of the mission and the superiors who devised the scatterbrained scheme. Fortunately, Rock is the only source of comic relief – and his one-liners are mostly effective (and, on rare occasions, hilarious).

Although a touch overdramatic (like many of director Joel Schumacher’s pictures), the blend of comedy and action is frequently more adept than questionable. The basic notions of switching places, roleplaying, and having opposites join forces (along the lines of “Enemy of the State” or “Rush Hour”) lend to amusing mixups and misadventures, while the stunt sequences are adroitly handled. The action isn’t comical by itself, which is appropriate; instead, it’s Rock who brings the comedy to the moments between chases and shootouts, such as when he’s forced to deal with Turner’s ex-girlfriend. And when the gun battles do ensue, it’s Hopkins who steals the show, casually chewing gum and dispensing extra bullets into corpses for good measure.

A few scenes are added for extra comedy, unnecessarily, such as when Hayes undergoes a kidnapping exercise to test his alertness. The problem with this kind of additive is that Jacob’s character was never trained in self defense or reconnaissance or military tactics, making his various successes unconvincing and impractical. Later, when he’s in the thick of triple-crosses, his survival appears accidental or simply fake. And when he drives a getaway vehicle, managing some stunts and snazzy maneuvers, it would have been far more believable if he’d taken a class for this sort of thing – no matter how brief. He should have subsisted purely on serendipity, or he should have been written as a streetwise hoodlum.

Because of this disconnect, the story begins to fall apart – aided further by the ridiculous nature of the villains’ connections, and the hastily designed reasons for journeying back and forth between the Czech Republic and New Jersey (with a nuclear bomb, no less, glossed over by a quick line about shipping via air freight). In the end, as it devolves into a save-the-world scenario, with tremendous stalling as guns are waved and hostages are ferried about, “Bad Company” loses much of its momentum and forcefulness. Nevertheless, it’s tough to rob Hopkins of an incredible screen presence.

– Mike Massie

 



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