On Screen

'Bad Company': Bankrupt

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 7, 2002

WATCHING "Bad Company," many ideas for different titles came to mind. Let's see, there was "Sad Company," "Bad Idea" and "Old Idea."

After all, we're talking about a reserved white CIA agent (Anthony Hopkins) who recruits a black, streetwise hustler (Chris Rock) to fulfill a dangerous mission.

When I held up the promotional picture of Rock and Hopkins, without comment, an office colleague groaned.

"Can someone please make them stop?" he asked.

During an undercover mission in Prague, CIA agent Kevin Pope (Rock in a double role) is killed when he shields his colleague, Gaylord Oakes (Hopkins), from gunfire. Oakes is ordered to complete the mission, which involves buying a nuclear device from a European operator named Adrik Vas (Peter Stormare).

Oakes needs a dead-ringer replacement for Pope. Thank goodness Pope had a twin brother, named Jake Hayes. The brothers, who were separated at birth, never knew about each other.

The CIA veteran tracks down Hayes, who's a speed-chess-playing, fast-talking dealmaker. And to cut a longwinded, predictable scenario short, Oakes trains Hayes to act like his lost brother -- but (under orders from the Company) doesn't fully reveal how much danger he's in. Of course, Oakes becomes increasingly sympathetic toward Hayes as they get in deeper.

Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's best move of all was to hire Joel Schumacher to direct the picture. A pop-kitsch expert, who has directed "The Lost Boys," two "Batman" movies, and two John Grisham movies, Schumacher gives this movie as good, streamlined and fast-paced a ride as he can. But in the end, the director's stuck with a stinker of a premise, which returns to the now-cliched, white-guy-black-guy era of "Beverly Hills Cop," "Trading Places" and "48 HRS."

When those films came out in the 1980s, all of them starring Eddie Murphy, the Berlin Wall was still up. Now the wall's down. Murphy has evolved into Doctor Dolittle. But "Bad Company" (which Bruckheimer first started conceiving in the late 1980s) is still asking us to chuckle at that nutty dynamic between "urban" wisecracking and chilly, white deadpan. This movie should have been buried under all that Berlin rubble.

BAD COMPANY (PG-13, 117 minutes) -- Contains violence, bad language, sexual situations and straight-to-video formula. Area theaters.

© 2002 The Washington Post Company