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Dustin Putman

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Bait (2000)
1 Stars

Directed by Antoine Fuqua
Cast: Jamie Foxx, David Morse, Doug Hutchison, Kimberly Elise, David Paymer, Mike Epps, Robert Pastorelli, Jamie Kennedy, Tia Texada.
2000 – 119 minutes
Rated: Rated R (for violence, profanity, and sex).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, September 16, 2000.

Ever seen 1998's "Rush Hour?" How about 1999's "Blue Streak?" Do these two films have anything in common with "Bait," the new action-comedy directed by Antoine Fuqua (1998's Chow Yun-Fat/Mira Sorvino-starrer, "The Replacement Killers")? Well, aside from all three being released the same exact weekend of each progressive year, they also star an African-American comedian in a plot dealing with characters out to steal, or get, money. "Bait," more than either of its still-cliched predecessors, is a complete hack job, bankrupt of original ideas and likable characters. Fuqua's one attempt at distinguishing his picture from the rest of the generic lot is his intentionally choppy and quick-paced cinematography, equipped with extreme close-up shots of the actors' faces and the action happening onscreen. Not only is this camerawork annoying, however, but director Oliver Stone is far superior at the same thing, and usually has a point to make along with his stylistic choices.

Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx) is a well-meaning small-time thief who, at the start of the film, has just been arrested once again for the theft of a bunch of prawns--extra large shrimp--in a seafood house. He is put into jail with a cellmate in the form of John Jaster (Robert Pastorelli), an ill man who was forced into helping the technologically brilliant and psychotic Bristol (Doug Hutchison) attempt a grand-scale robbery of gold equaling up to $40-million in currency. Before long, Jaster meets an unfortunate demise, and the U.S. Treasury investigator on the case, Clenteen (David Morse), suspects that Alvin must know more than he is letting on. Unbeknownst to Alvin, he is decided to become the bait of the still-at-large Bristol by having a tracking device cleverly placed within his jaw, and set free.

Meanwhile, Bristol malevolently decides that Alvin is the only living person who may know where the missing gold that was taken by Jaster is hiding, and sets out to not only stalk him, but threaten his girlfriend Lisa (Kimberly Elise) and 2-year-old son, the latter whom he has only just now discovered.

While never an inherently terrible movie, "Bait" digs itself a deep grave early on, simply by its own sheer mediocrity in every aspect. Aside from, perhaps, the charming appeal of Jamie Foxx (who otherwise deserves to not be wasting his time with such superfluous material), nothing stands out as being anything other than marginally tolerable, and more often than not is strictly of the "been-there/done-that" variety.

An obviously talented actor who shined in 1997's "Booty Call" and 1999's "Any Given Sunday," "Bait" is below the intelligence level of Jamie Foxx, and his character (an unlucky, often goofy guy struggling to put his life back together) a strict rehash of roles Chris Tucker, Martin Lawrence, and Eddie Murphy have played in the past. In the supporting cast arena, Kimberly Elise (1998's "Beloved") adds validity to the otherwise thankless part of Alvin's weary girlfriend Lisa, as does David Morse (1999's "Crazy in Alabama"), who resembles an older Russell Crowe. Finally, Doug Hutchison (1999's "The Green Mile") appears as the overly nasty and severe Bristol; Robert Pastorelli (1996's "Michael") serviceably plays the conflicted robbery accomplice, Jaster; and Jamie Kennedy (1996's "Scream") tiresomely retreads the same character he has played in at least three other movies--the computer whiz working to track someone down.

The screenplay, by Andrew Scheinman, Adam Scheinman, and Tony Gilroy, is predictably sloppy and uninspired, not to mention entirely far-fetched. The idea of placing a tracking device in someone's chin is not only absurd for a mostly reality-based film, but also right out of a sci-fi picture starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. The attempts at comedy, too, fail the majority of the time and are forgettable. In fact, "Bait" as a whole is exactly the same way--aside from Foxx's fetching energy, there is nothing present that is even notably intriguing or worthwhile for any viewer, aside from die-hard action fanatics. All involved should have known better.

©2000 by Dustin Putman

Dustin Putman