Chris Rock does an Amitabh!
Here's the link between Bad Company and Don
Some movies come in pairs. This summer, it is the turn of Bad Company and The Sum Of All Fears. Both movies share similar thematic schemes of anti-terrorist vintage, but differ in their narration and actor characterisations.
A case in point is the movies' casting of comedian Chris Rock bringing an undertext of lighthearted banter to the proceedings. Another difference is that Bad Company has been produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and carries his trademark style of filmmaking. Bruckheimer movies depend on spectacular and stylised action sequences to propel the narration forward.
Sometimes, as in Top Gun, this works. At others, as in Pearl Harbor, it does not. In Bad Company, the action sequences are as good as any of Bruckheimer's previous movies. Some of these take place in the enchanting city of Prague, thus adding an element of mystique, a la Mission Impossible.
Kevin Pope (Chris Rock) is a Harvard-educated CIA operative killed in Prague while trying to buy a nuclear device from an ex-KGB arms dealer. The sellers do not trust anyone except Kevin. Consequently, the CIA scrambles to find a double. Enter Jake Hayes (also played by Chris Rock), a ticket scalper and relentless chess player who is one day captured by the CIA and informed that he is the unwitting twin of Kevin, separated at birth.
Jake has recently been jettisoned by his girlfriend Julie (Kerry Washington), who berates him for not making more of himself in his life. When Agent Oakes (Anthony Hopkins) dangles the possibility of a huge payoff for Jake, he agrees to impersonate Kevin.
The CIA has nine days to convert Jake from a working class, rap-loving smarty pants into a suave wine aficionado and a connoisseur of the arts. This part of the script has served the basis for plotlines in movies from My Fair Lady to The Princess Diaries.
In this movie, the gentrification of Jake is followed by a diversion to more hair-raising adventures. Jake's efforts in impersonating Kevin are soured by some rogue interlopers bringing a nuclear bomb to the US, thus completing the link with The Sum Of All Fears.
The casting of Chris Rock in this movie is guaranteed to win laughs in the audience. Rock is popular in the US because of his Saturday Night Live routines and, more recently, his stand up comic show (The Chris Rock Show). Rock brings a manic intensity to his acting embodied conspicuously in his feverishly darting eyes. His staccato dialogue delivery adds another notch to his humor, though international audiences might find it hard to comprehend.
Also, the local content of his quips might present problems for non-US audiences. For example, when Rock arrives at Prague, he looks around the airport and quips, 'Looks like Newark.' (Newark, New Jersey, is considered by many as an example of urban decay in the United States.) These are but minor quibbles, for Rock succeeds in bringing a sense of comic relief to the otherwise unsettling theme of this movie.
Towards the end of the movie, his tirade against the CIA on their inability to catch Saddam Hussain is a fine piece of comedic acting.
Anthony Hopkins' reasons for playing the role of a CIA agent will remain shrouded in mystery. If one should hazard a guess, the best bet would be that the accomplished actor has tired of intensive Hannibal-like roles and wants to try some freewheeling and more traditional good cop roles. He performs the role with aplomb, complete with his cultured delivery and stride.
But one cannot help but detect a sense of weariness in his acting. It is almost as if the actor put himself on autopilot and sailed through. This is adequate except in a few scenes when Hopkins is required to cavort around with a revolver in his hand. A portly figure huffing and puffing around smoky hallways is not becoming of either Hopkins or the movie.
Peter Stormare as the ex-KGB rogue selling nuclear weapons does disservice to himself by talking in an annoyingly fake Russian accent. He was silent and sinister in a chilling role in Fargo; it is unfortunate that he is neither silent nor sinister in this movie.
This movie is reminiscent of the classic Amitabh Bachchan flick Don. Chris Rock is not as versatile as Amitabh Bacchan, who combined wit, drama and thrills effortlessly in his rendition of the polar opposite twins. But it is to Rock's credit that he is able to make this movie a pleasant experience solely on the basis of his comic talent.