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``Bad Company"

IT IS not clear what the director hoped to achieve! Whether to clown around the issue of terrorism or try constructing a somber film around some bit of comedy in this Touchstone Pictures/Jerry Bruckheimer Films (and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures) venture! At the end of course, you cannot help admiring the way it has been shot, the effort and the slickness normally associated with such a project, the unimpressive story and some stereotyped performances notwithstanding. And Antony Hopkins, as usual, remains convincing even if he may have been secretly laughing - a sterling performance indeed which makes the viewing rather worthwhile. He plays Gaylord Oakes, a veteran CIA agent who loses one of his best undercover agents midway through a sensitive nuclear arms deal - and must now complete it somehow. Kevin Pope (Chris Rock) is this agent - suave, well educated and finely brought up. As Michael Turner, he is negotiating a 30-million dollar purchase of a nuclear bomb being sold by the greasy ex-KGB Adik Vas (Peter Stormare). Kevin/Michael gets killed and the CIA is at a loss because Vas won't trust anyone else!

Gaylord, though hard nosed and clever, has a heart of gold - which is largely ignored because he is coerced by the usual, cold blooded, stereotyped CIA fellows, to replace Kevin with his newly discovered twin brother Jake (Chris Rock), a street bum of sorts making a living selling game tickets. He is loud, crass and an expert in chess! And Gaylord has just nine days to complete this mission. The idea is to tutor Jake into being Kevin and ship him of to Prague (where the deal is to be cut) to purchase the weapon and generally save the world! Of course Jake is far from willing, risks he can take, but not bullets as he learns in the course of being persuaded. He also has to revive a flagging three-year relationship with Julie (Kerry Washington) his girlfriend, who is fed up with his lack of seriousness in life and Kevin's ex girlfriend, Nicole, who also happens to be a CNN investigative reporter. Some of the scenes shot in Prague are delightful in terms of visuals. The camera work (Dariusz Wolski) looks at the city of history, with the colours of twilight giving it a mellow feel. The ancient buildings, especially the monastery, look serene despite all the action going on. With the screenplay by Jason Richman and Michael Browning, based on a story by Gary Goodman and David Himmelstein, this is typical of how with the end of cold war, America needs something else for preoccupation. Director Joel Schumacher does not bother with situations that could be fascinating — when it does have the potential to be one of those truly gripping films with a propensity to showcase Hollywood's skill at composing visually eye-catching scenarios. Infusing it with comedy (which is intentional) somehow underscores the entire effort!

CHITRA MAHESH

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