Bad Company

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“Bad Company” unites director Joel Schumacher (“Batman & Robin”) and producer Jerry Bruckheimer (“Armageddon”) for the first time, and it perfectly showcases their individual gifts. It’s uneven like a Schumacher film, and loudly stupid like a Bruckheimer film.

Here’s the story. CIA agent Gaylord Oakes (Anthony Hopkins) has been working undercover with agent Kevin Pope (Chris Rock) to buy a thermonuclear device from terrorists. But Pope gets killed, and the terrorists don’t trust Oakes well enough to do the deal with him only. And if the deal doesn’t go down, the bomb will go to another bidder, whose intentions with it surely won’t be as pure as the U.S. government’s would have been.

Fortunately, Pope had a long-lost twin brother from whom he was separated at birth. His name is Jake Hayes, and he is a wise-cracking ticket scalper in New York who won’t commit to his girlfriend (Kerry Washington), much less get a real job. Oakes and the CIA convince him to pose as his brother for the terrorists, finish the deal, and save the day. “The future of the free world may rest in this young man’s hands,” Oakes says, reminding us he is an action-flick character and not a real person.

At first Jake is like, “No way, man! I ain’t gonna get killed!” But then he changes his mind, I guess because he had to change his mind or else the movie would be over.

This is the sort of movie that runs along, making noise and knocking things over, all the while assuming you won’t think very hard about what’s happening.

The “separated-at-birth” thing is unnecessary. Why did Jake and Kevin have to be unaware of each other’s existence? It doesn’t help the story, and the explanation for why they were split up is nonsensical.

Also stretching the bounds of believability is Jake’s constant wisecracking. At one point, he and Oakes are driving over rough terrain with a nuclear bomb in the backseat that could explode at the slightest provocation. And Jake cannot stop cracking jokes. One smart-aleck remark in such a dire situation, I can buy. A steady stream of them, no.

Do Hopkins and Rock have any chemistry together? Of course not. It’s an example of the bizarre opposites-casting that Hollywood employs, where the actors are chosen first, and THEN they try to make it work. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover, yes. Owen Wilson and Jackie Chan, yes. Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock? Sorry, no. Who’s next? Judi Dench and Martin Lawrence? Ian McKellan and Carrot Top?

Rock isn’t a good enough actor to play two characters. I kept wondering why they were making a big deal about Jake learning all of his dead brother’s mannerisms when the two already talked and acted exactly alike. (They both even have the same wispy goatee, probably because Rock refused to do the movie if he had to shave it off.)

Hopkins is a fine actor, of course, but not convincing as a secret agent. He shoots people in the film, but it never seems like something he would do. And what’s a Brit doing spying for the U.S. government, anyway?

One of the terrorists explains his motives with the same old spiel: Americans are lazy and complacent, while people all over the world are suffering and dying. That speech used to work. But pardon me, I believe America has been through some turmoil of its own recently. I believe we are acquainted with mass murder and terrorism.

There’s even a charming sequence in which a thermonuclear device is in danger of being detonated … in New York City. How’d they get it into the country? Shipped it like regular luggage on an airplane.

It takes guts to make a movie this bravely stupid, a film so blissfully unaware of current world events. I’m not a proponent of changing every movie because of Sept. 11, but I do like getting the impression that the filmmakers at least considered some alternatives. Even if they decide to stick with their original plan, it’s comforting to think there was a meeting at some point where someone said, “Should we still do this?,” and then some intelligent discussion followed. With “Bad Company,” you get the feeling they didn’t discuss anything other than the casting and the budget. Movies can take place in a fantasy world, but movie-makers ought to live in reality.

C- (; PG-13, a lot of profanity, a lot of shooting violence, some brief partial nudity, some mild sensuality.)

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