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Bad Company

(2002) no stars Pg-13
116 min. Buena Vista. Director: Tomoyuki Furumaya. Cast: Yamato Okitsu, Yuta Nakajima, Ken Mitsuishi, Asako Yashiro, Mikio Shimizu.

Where to begin describing Bad Company? From producer Jerry Bruckheimer's Office of Demographics comes, ostensibly, another well-reasoned packaging of a star twosome (typically, a white man and a black man or an old star and a new star, preferably both criteria in one couple) and director (prototypically, Tony Scott). Here, Bruckheimer pairs Chris Rock with Anthony Hopkins, under the direction of "stylish" Hollywood floozy Joel Schumacher. The Bruckheimer has emerged from its seasonal hole, and his shadow promises ten more weeks of dubious blockbusters. Nothing exceeds like excess.

To get it out of the way, the plot entails Chris Rock's "ghetto" scalper masquerading as his dead CIA agent brother, under the tutelage of Anthony Hopkins' inexplicably elderly field agent. The stakes are high, leading to--if you think I care about giving away the ending, you're sorely mistaken--the archetypal "red wire or the blue wire?" number. Also in the mix is a bizarre family values subplot about the Rock character's undying love for a very fickle (or--dare I say?--outright confused) girlfriend. When not in New York, the characters travel to Prague, allowing Schumacher to borrow style from Czech architecture. Meanwhile, a laughably familiar score swells away.

But if you think the inherent laziness of this pecuniary formula is offensive, you've only scratched the surface. Save yourself while you still can. Unlike previous, watchable Bruckheimer films, Bad Company is tedious, jaw-dropping when it aims to be funny, and lacking in credibility of any kind. Still, one might argue all this to be, collectively, a foregone conclusion.

But even the most attuned cultural radar probably can't prepare anyone for the reality that this movie is blithely and willfully racist in its very conception, and Chris Rock seems not to notice or care. Putting aside the obligatory pseudo-foreign enemy armed with weapons of mass destruction (Russian mafia and Yugoslav terrorists, this week), Bad Company sets to work making Chris Rock's character, as it suits the momentum of the plot, an infant, a sissy, a hormonally-charged and weak-willed adolescent, an ill-informed ne'er-do-well, a motor-mouthed babbler, and for a few "choice" moments, a reluctant hero (sample dialogue under pressure: "I want to go to Jersey! I want to see my girl! I want to watch Oprah!"). Luckily, after two hours of patient coaching by a fatherly white coot, his deep-down cleverness and talent can emerge.

To keep this simple, imagine anyone buying this movie as what Bruckheimer is selling with a white man doing what Rock does here (which would instantly nullify this supposed thriller-romance-comedy into a straight-up Corky Romano goof) or, God forbid, a woman in the role. No other culture or gender, seemingly, would accept this sick fable of the protection old white patriarchy (and old white money)--represented by the CIA--provide to those unfortunate enough to not be rich and white. That the comically gifted Rock is himself so unfortunately for hire to talent-deprived old white men is enough to put you off your popcorn.

Or turn off your brain and watch Anthony Hopkins try to make a joke out of walking through the film (his nonchalant killing technique is, for a split-second, amusing). Or perhaps you'd rather admire the pretty shade of blue filter Schumacher selected to blanket his insanely derivative vehicle. Or perhaps try to laugh along with a performance by Rock that can only be described as shrill.

Or perhaps you'll just avoid Bad Company at all costs.

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