"Bad Company" matches Chris Rock with Anthony Hopkins -- Rock as a reluctant CIA operative recruited from the New York streets, and Hopkins as his starchy, rock-solid British-American mentor. And though they're a good pair, this isn't a very good movie. It's slick but hollow.
If you've seen the trailer, you've seen almost everything good in "Bad Company." The trailer may be the ideal version of this particular story, a commercially calculated, fish-out-of-water comedy thriller about a mismatched twosome ragging each other while fighting terrorists in Prague and New York.
Despite the usual dressed-to-kill Jerry Bruckheimer production values and an interesting-sounding story -- Rock plays Jake Hayes, a shifty little hustler who has to replace his dead twin brother in an ongoing CIA sting involving a nuclear warhead for sale by Russian mobsters -- the movie has the stale, familiar ring of high-concept action executed without wit or originality. The script (credited to four writers) is the last word in mediocre, formula-bound hackwork. And though Hopkins is able to play around it (while Rock tries to snazz it up with wisecracks), the film lacks spontaneity and feeling. This sparkless, cynical-sentimental scenario becomes something the actors and director Joel Schumacher have to triumph over -- which occasionally they do.
The story involves a nuclear device peddled by Russian gangster Adrik Vas (a good enough heavy turn by Peter Stormare, the sullen Swede of "Fargo") to CIA agents Gaylord Oakes (Hopkins) and Kevin Pope (Rock as the twin brother). Pope is killed in the first scene by a rival Balkan gang also hot to purchase the bomb, but since nobody but the CIA guys knows Pope is dead, Oakes and his uptight superiors decide to fake out Vas and continue the operation.
So the CIA recruits twin Hayes, from whom Pope was unknowingly separated at birth and who was raised by a working-class urban mom (Irma P. Hall), while Pope got the silver-spoon treatment from wealthy adoptive parents.
Pope was eventually recruited by the CIA, while Hayes ekes out a living as a chess hustler, ticket scalper and club deejay. Pope had a CNN-correspondent girlfriend, classy Nicole ("NYPD Blue's" Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon); Hayes' girl, Julie (Kerry Washington), fed up with little money, is splitting for a new job and new guy in Seattle.
But despite the talent involved (save for the writers), nothing really works. Everything seems borrowed or bowdlerized. Does Hopkins' Oakes owe his name to William F. Buckley's studly CIA agent, Blackford Oakes? Haven't we see almost every scene in this movie at least five times before, including the race to disarm the bomb and the bit where Hayes and Nicole fall down a laundry chute? And aren't all these Russian and Balkan bad guys subs for the cliched Arab terrorists who may have been temporarily politically incorrect when the film was shot?
Everything is superficial. For example, Hopkins creates his character by constantly chewing gum or sucking toothpicks. One of the only moments that strongly registers comes late in the picture, when Rock seemingly improvises a blistering tirade against Oakes' snobbish boss.
Beyond that, the actors might as well be doing a long commercial. If the CIA ever wants a TV campaign, Schumacher and Bruckheimer may be their boys.
Even the title is unoriginal. There are at least four other movies named "Bad Company," and the best one is Robert Benton's smart 1972 western with Jeff Bridges. That's what you should get if you feel like watching "Bad Company" this weekend; the new movie is only an empty sell.
Directed by Joel Schumacher; written by Jason Richman, Michael Browning; photographed by Dariusz A. Wolski; edited by Mark Goldblatt; production designed by Jan Roelfs; music by Trevor Rabin; produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Mike Stenson. A Touchstone Pictures release; opens Friday, June 7. Running time: 1:51. MPAA rating: PG-13 (intense sequences of violent action, some sensuality and language).
Oakes -- Anthony Hopkins
Jake Hayes/Kevin Pope -- Chris Rock
Adrik Vas -- Peter Stormare
Dragan Adjanic -- Matthew Marsh
Julie -- Kerry Washington
Mrs. Banks -- Irma P. Hall Seale -- Gabriel Macht
Michael Wilmington is the Chicago Tribune Movie Critic.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun