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(2002) (Anthony Hopkins, Chris Rock) (PG-13)

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Action/Drama: After being contacted by a desperate CIA agent, a streetwise hustler sets out to impersonate his long lost, but now dead twin brother to help the agency complete an undercover deal of buying a nuclear bomb off the black market.
Gaylord Oakes (ANTHONY HOPKINS) and Kevin Pope (CHRIS ROCK) are undercover CIA agents working out of Prague where they're attempting to complete the purchase of a nuclear suitcase bomb from Russian black market dealer Adrik Vas (PETER STORMARE). Working under the guise of antiquities dealer Michael Turner, Pope has set up the deal, but is murdered during a shootout with other parties who are desirous of the bomb.

Realizing they need Kevin to finish the deal, CIA director Roland Yates (JOHN SLATTERY) orders Oakes and his associates, including agents Seale (GABRIEL MACHT), Swanson (BROOKE SMITH) and Carew (DANIEL SUNJATA), to pick up New York ticket scalper Jake Hayes (CHRIS ROCK) and see if he'll help.

It turns out he's Kevin's long lost twin brother who's been scraping by, trying to make ends meet and keep his girlfriend, Julie (KERRY WASHINGTON), from moving across the country and taking a job with her ex-boyfriend.

After some negotiations, Jake agrees to the deal, but isn't told the specifics or related dangers of what he'll have to do or who he'll be dealing with, including heavies Dragan Adjanic (MATTHEW MARSH) and Michelle Petrov (DRAGAN MICANOVIC), or Kevin's beautiful ex-girlfriend, Nicole (GARCELLE BEAUVAIS-NILON), who wants to get back together with him.

With only nine days to learn how to mimic his dead brother's mannerisms and knowledge in order to fool Vas and the others, Jake sets out for Prague with Oakes and his crew, unaware of the potentially deadly ramifications should they fail in their quest.

OUR TAKE: 3.5 out of 10
Chemistry is everything, whether it's in making a pharmaceutical, a romantic pairing and yes, even a movie. If the elements don't work together in the intended fashion, then the drug, relationship and/or film simply won't either, no matter the attractive packaging or attempts to conceal the problem.

The failure of chemistry in movies obviously isn't as potentially devastating as would be the case in the other two examples, but it's nevertheless near always a disappointing turn of events. Of course, often times one can sense - just from hearing the idea - that certain cinematic pairings and thus the resultant films in which they appear simply won't work.

That's certainly the case with the appropriately titled "Bad Company." Even before I knew much about the film, I thought the idea of pairing Oscar winning actor Anthony Hopkins ("The Silence of the Lambs," "Nixon") with acerbic comedian turned actor Chris Rock ("Down to Earth," "Nurse Betty") sounded like a dubious casting proposal at best.

While it's obvious that the filmmakers -- producer Jerry Bruckheimer ("Pearl Harbor," "Armageddon"), director Joel Schumacher ("Batman & Robin," "Falling Down") and screenwriters Jason Richman (making his debut) and Michael Browning ("Six Days, Seven Nights," "More Dogs Than Bones") - are obviously going for the mismatched age, odd couple angle, even such a pairing needs the right kind of chemistry - adversarial or grating at first, then predictably more amiable and complementary later on -- to work.

Unfortunately, that's not the case here despite Bruckheimer getting it to work in "The Rock" (with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage) while the likes of Eddie Murphy & Nick Nolte and Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones did the same in "48 Hours" and "Men in Black" respectively.

From the performers' pairing to the basic premise and resultant shoot-out action and bomb counting down moments, everything that's offered here is contrived, clichéd and/or recycled from previous efforts. While diehard fans of Rock's style of humor and/or Bruckheimer's usual formula of moviemaking (notwithstanding "Black Hawk Down") might groove on what's been slopped onto their cinematic plates, most everyone else will probably find the slickly produced offerings to be rather bland and predictable.

Most of the problem lies with the screenplay - that had two other credited writers and who knows how many uncredited ones with their fingers in the mix - that has nothing to do with the many other films that have previously sported the same title.

Despite all of the dressings and obvious direct correlation to the new world of terrorist villainy in which we now live, the plot of having to stop a nuclear bomb from arriving and being used in the U.S. doesn't carry much bang - literally or figuratively - for the buck.

Then there's the to-be-expected fish out of water material where the protagonist reacts and must deal in his own "unique" way with the increasingly perilous situation in which he finds himself. All of that, and the long-lost twin brother setup feels tired and contrived, no doubt hampered by the fact that the proceedings have obviously been arranged to allow Rock to drop in his trademark one-liners and wisecracks every few minutes in response to what's occurring to or around his character.

While some of the humorous material is decent if not particularly hilarious, others, including using the phrase "Shaq Attack" (in regards to a certain Dr. O'Neal of Los Angeles and formerly of Orlando - as in the NBA star) and "Dr. Dre" in relation to testing a nuclear device are stupid (but will nevertheless probably elicit laughs from the target audience).

His is the sort of role that Murphy or Smith would have played years ago and Rock tries his darndest to fill their shoes. Unfortunately, his feet, unlike his reported ego, are not big enough for the job. While he's thankfully not as grating as in previous roles where a little bit of him and his angry black man humor were as much as viewers could handle, the actor has yet to justify the bumping up from supporting role status to that of leading man or action hero.

Hopkins, on the other hand, naturally brings a palpable degree of depth and heightened viewer expectation to any role he plays. Unfortunately, this has to be one of his most disappointing and listless performances in a long while. It's been quite some time since I've seen a performer appear so uninterested and bored with a role, but Hopkins clearly exudes such feelings. Beyond his still powerful vocal delivery and chronic but unnecessary toothpick chewing, there's nothing remarkable or memorable about the poorly written character or lackluster performance.

The various villains - including Matthew Marsh ("Spy Game," "Smilla's Sense of Snow"), Peter Stormare ("Windtalkers," "Fargo") and an assortment of unidentified others - are equally as flat and instantly forgettable. The same pretty much holds true for the weakly written CIA agent roles played by John Slattery ("Traffic," "Where's Marlowe?"), Gabriel Macht ("Behind Enemy Lines," "American Outlaws") and Brooke Smith ("The Silence of the Lambs," "Vanya on 42nd Street"). Kerry Washington ("Save the Last Dance," "Our Song") and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon ("Double Take," "Wild Wild West") are present as various girlfriends, but also suffer from flat and/or recycled characterizations.

Filled with material that never really pays off (all of the chess playing beyond its symbolism), is hard to believe (including but certainly not limited to most of the gunfire missing everyone, particularly the agents who openly discuss the nuke in front of hotel personnel in a separate scene), or simply goes through the motions (all of the action and "suspense"), the film is yet another example of a standard, by the numbers Bruckheimer production (it seems he has that influence no matter what director he has helm his films).

Appropriately titled as much for the chemistry between the two leads as that of the relationship between the film and the viewer, "Bad Company" is repetitive, flat and completely forgettable. Accordingly, the film rates as just a 3.5 out of 10.

Reviewed May 30, 2002 / Posted June 7, 2002

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