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Bad Company


Bad Company

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Bad Company's teaming of Chris Rock's comic springiness and Anthony Hopkins' studied affect seems more a result of demographic craftsmanship than of filmmaking instinct: A little from Column A, a little from Column B, and no one goes away mad. That same magpie spirit guides the film itself, weaving Hopkins and Rock into a structure which, at least since 48 Hours, has become a kind of action-film genetic memory that keeps a partnership uneasy until just before the bullets really start to fly. Company at least puts the story in motion with a somewhat novel twist on the buddy formula. Having lost his best agent (also played by Rock) while negotiating for a black-market nuclear device, Hopkins locates the agent's twin brother and asks him to act as a stand-in. A sustenance-level hustler of chess and tickets, Rock receives Hopkins' offer just as his life begins to fall apart with the threatened departure of his long-suffering girlfriend. Soon, Rock starts a crash regimen in international intrigue, the Czech language, and good table manners. In this Pygmalion phase, Company shows some promise, as Rock scores easy laughs in adjusting to his new environment. The film even suggests a willingness to touch on a more challenging theme, as he sees, in his brother's more privileged upbringing, all the opportunities he missed while growing up in a New Jersey foster home. But that goes directly out the window once the chase scenes begin in earnest, and the theoretical potential of the Rock/Hopkins pairing is given little chance to develop in the seats of thundering automobiles. Another film pushed back from its original opening date by the events of last fall, Company almost seems like the product of a post-Sept. 11 world. Like a cartoon version of a real threat, the villains are terrorists of a non-specific nationality with an ill-defined anti-American agenda and a tendency to spout complaints too clichéd to take seriously. An even surer sign of the times can be found in Joel Schumacher's direction, which, when compared with pace-quickening flash-and-cut disciples like Michael Bay, has begun to look positively conservative. In context, it just seems like another means for Bad Company to stick with the tried-and-true.