'Bait' missing a hook and good lines

Posted: Thursday, September 14, 2000

Jamie Foxx has enough personality to zip up even the most average action movie. Which is good, because "Bait" is the most average action movie.

Unfortunately, director Antoine Fuqua's contribution is more noticeable than Foxx's. Fuqua is the guy who made "The Negotiator," and as he demonstrated there, he has a gift for creating the kind of striking visuals that look great in car commercials. But his pacing is slack, so there's no suspense, and he can't get the story in gear because he gives important details and minor ones exactly the same weight.

Fuqua's ineptitude would probably make even a good script seem bad, but "Bait" does not have a good script.

'Bait'

1- 1/2 stars

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Starring: Jamie Foxx

Rated: R, for violence, a clothed but racy sex scene and a smattering of raw language

SHOULD YOU GO? Even if you're a Foxx fan, you'll agree that this turkey does him no favors.

It's a needlessly complicated affair, in which Foxx, who has done prison time with a dead robber who gave him a clue to the whereabouts of some gold, is pursued by the dead robber's partner (Doug Hutchison), a rival gang and the Feds, who have implanted a tracking device in Foxx's jaw without bothering to tell Foxx about it.

The script, which bears striking similarities to the Will Smith vehicle, "Enemy of the State," relies on coincidence and convenience to get itself out of jams, and often it doesn't make any sense. For instance, Hutchison is a criminal/computer mastermind who figures out that Foxx is under surveillance at all times, but toward the end of the movie, Hutchison simply forgets about it.

Speaking of Hutchison, he contributes a lot to the movie's averageness by playing his maniac as a prissy, mild psycho. It's a defensible choice, certainly, or it would be if John Malkovich hadn't beaten him to it, giving an identical performance in "In the Line of Fire" and other films. Hutchison even has the same tremulous voice so, instead of acting, he's just being John Malkovich.

There are other oddities, too. The costume designer is obsessed with the J. Crew catalog -- there aren't this many turtlenecks on Galapagos -- and Fuqua has a bizarrely meteorological bent, with countless shots of lightning and clouds.

In between weather reports, Foxx gets few chances to shine. He's an authoritative presence who's completely believable as an action hero, and he can also pull off comedy (the best running joke has him constantly getting in trouble with the law, while the Feds who are secretly tailing him keep trying to bail him out). Here's hoping that proving himself in a nothing movie like "Bait" will lead to better parts in better movies.

(c) 2000, Saint Paul Pioneer Press (St. Paul, Minn.).

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Distributed by Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.



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