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Bad Company

  • compiled by Jeffrey Overstreet Copyright Christianity Today International
  • 2002 1 Jan
Bad Company
from Film Forum, 06/13/02

What would the summer movie season be without a black-guy/white-guy buddy action movie? Maybe a better movie season, according to critics who've seen Bad Company. Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock are the odd couple this time around, perhaps too odd. Hopkins plays a CIA agent assigned to train Jake, a streetwise hustler, how to behave like his twin brother, a suave CIA agent who was recently killed. If Jake can wrap up his dead brother's unfinished project, he just might save a major U.S. city from the impact of a nuclear bomb detonated by terrorists. Jake (Rock) doesn't have any idea how to impersonate his brother's intelligence, class, and talents, but he reluctantly goes ahead with the plan. At the same time, he must strive to remain faithful to his girlfriend while his late brother's girlfriend tries to seduce him.

"Bad Company wants to be everything for everybody," says Steven D. Greydanus. "While it's not a lot of anything for anybody, it manages to be just enough of this and that not to be a total waste of time. Fitfully funny but never exciting or engaging, modestly entertaining but excessively dimwitted, and in the end just too darn long, Bad Company is relentlessly average."

Likewise, Phil Boatwright says, "Not intriguing enough to be called a spy thriller. Not funny enough to be called a comedy. Hopkins is a suburb actor. Rock can be an adroit observer of human frailties. But you'd never be convinced of either of those statements by sitting through this poorly written waste of $8.50."

Michael Elliott says that Hopkins and Rock play "cardboard cutout caricatures that serve no other purpose than to stand in the foreground of whatever explosions or automatic weapons fire might be taking place behind them. That the dialogue is stilted and the editing less than smooth will matter little to audiences looking for loud, mindlessly entertaining films. Bad Company will deliver what it is they seek." A critic at the USCCB also faults "skimpy characterization" and says "the film's protracted ending wears the viewer down, with its many twists and turns."

David Bruce (Hollywood Jesus) points out, "It reflects some positive changes that have taken place in post modern storytelling. Unlike the airhead portrayals of women in the early James Bond spy films, this film presents a woman as intelligent, independent, and fully human. Jake … is presented as committed to one woman and does not yield to the temptation of another woman. In fact, we never see him in bed with anyone. Commitment is presented as the ideal in relationship. I cannot express my gratitude enough to Hollywood for modeling harmonious relationships between the various races, genders, and generations. Biologically Gaylord and Jake are not father and son, but symbolically they are. In this way the film speaks to family relationships. The film portrays faith as a normal function in life. It was so refreshing to me to see this. In this context it gives the Christian cross that Jake wears meaning."

Bob Smithouser (Focus on the Family) also highlights positive themes. But he concludes, "Ridiculous action and dialogue is one thing, but teens can do without the barrage of violence, language, and other moral miscues. Heed the words of 1 Corinthians 15:33. Don't let Bad Company corrupt good character." Paul Bicking and Lisa Rice complain of "a lot of language, too much violence and allusions to sex, and a poorly timed theme of international terrorism."

Douglas Downs (Christian Spotlight) says, "My two main objections to this film: 1) it's just not all that great … and 2) the plot premise preying on the worries of the public. And while many do 'worry about tomorrow,' Christians need not to do so if they follow biblical commands."

Mainstream critics made similar complaints and continued pondering whether it was appropriate to have movie bad guys plotting to blow up cities with nuclear bombs. Roger Ebert speculates, "I have a feeling that after this generation of pre-9/11 movies plays out, we won't be seeing it much anymore."