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Nothing From 'Nothing'

By Desson Howe
Washington Post Staff Writer
July 18, 1997

In "Nothing to Lose," Los Angeles advertising executive Nick Beam (Tim Robbins) walks into his bedroom and meets a sight that destroys his whole life: his wife (Kelly Preston) in bed with his boss (Michael McKean). Shattered and virtually catatonic, he drives his four-wheel-drive truck without heed to direction or traffic lights. He finds himself in a bad neighborhood where T. Paul (Martin Lawrence) jumps into his truck and demands the ad exec’s wallet and keys.

"You picked the wrong day," says Robbins, tossing his wallet through the window, flooring the pedal and driving the two of them to -- Arizona.

This comedy operates on one sputtery concept: the wild card matchup between Robbins, playing the straight, repressed white guy, and Lawrence, as the wildly expressive brother from the streets. Novel concept, huh? Perhaps the filmmakers only just got around to seeing "48 HRS." Beyond this weary little odd-coupling, the only real fascination is in watching for evidence of Lawrence’s irrational circuitry.

The star of the TV show "Martin" was found wandering around at an L.A. intersection in 1996, carrying a loaded gun and screaming "Fight the power!" After being sent home during the filming of "Nothing to Lose" for forgetting his lines and laughing with uncontrolled hysteria, he went on a similar rampage. He yelled the power stuff again at a Sherman Oaks intersection, a gun in his pocket, before being subdued by the police. In Lawrence’s life, comedy has cast a bizarre shadow.

In "Nothing to Lose," written and directed by Steve Oederkerk, he works that crazy shtick as far as it can go. He seems to be winging it major time -- which is his greatest asset. He contorts his body, mugs like a kid, screams, hollers and hoots. He has his moments, for sure. But the result isn’t nearly as funny as his earthier, stand-up material.

Robbins makes a good foil, and he plays the taxpayer-gone-loco with characteristic aplomb. But his presence in this movie is a sheer mystery: The guy just made "Dead Man Walking," for crying out loud. Surely, those baby-blue eyes and that skillful deadpan (remember his perfect performance as Nuke LaLoosh in "Bull Durham") could have been used for something greater than this formulaic junk.

With some strategic changes, "Nothing to Lose" could have been cleaned up and sold to the PG audience. But it’s too seedy for kids, thanks to that early bedroom scene, a certain lewd fertility statue and the profanity. And if older viewers can enjoy the infantile playfulness in the film (written and directed by the man who cowrote both "Ace Ventura" movies), they’ll only do so in fits and starts. Despite Lawrence and Robbins’s attempts to milk as much humor as possible, there isn’t enough funniness to go around.

NOTHING TO LOSE (R) — Contains nudity, a sex scene and profanity.

© Copyright 1997 The Washington Post Company

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