Friday, May 28, 2004

Movie: Bad Company (1995)

Not the lame Chris Rock/Anthony Hopkins thriller. And not the Jeff Bridges Civil War comedy, either. Fourteen movies have used this title, according to the IMDb. Once the count hit ten, it should have been retired.

This was one of ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY’s best videos of 1995, representing the many movies that sink without a trace in theatrical release only to find an audience later. Over the years the film has become a cable-TV staple; it’s been on every other day lately. Some attribute its popularity to the steamy love scenes between Laurence Fishburne and Ellen Barkin. I’m not about to discount them. But I’d also credit the original screenplay by Ross Thomas.

The humor that’s an integral part of Thomas’ novels doesn’t translate to the screen. Its absence makes the movie’s worldview seem cynical, even grim. But what do you expect from a man whose pseudonym was Bleeck? The story is set in a world populated solely by hustlers: disgraced CIA operatives, scheming industrialists, crooked judges. Every character is working his or her own angle, including Uncle Sam. It’s the rare Hollywood film that gives us absolutely no one to root for, making it tremendous fun to watch if you’re in the right frame of mind. God only knows what the Touchstone people thought of it. (Actually, we do know what they thought: they dumped it unceremoniously.) Thomas pulls a dandy reversal at the end of the movie, turning the least likely character into an avenging angel. The plot twist was probably the final nail in the movie’s coffin.

And it’s not entirely without laughs. For instance, the fact that all this high-level skullduggery is supposed to be unfolding in Seattle is hilarious.