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Bait (2000)

tn_baitWhen BAIT came out in 2000 I had no interest. That continued for 12 years. Then one night, in a dream, I was thinking that because of my love for Jamie Foxx’s performance in DJANGO UNCHAINED I was gonna rent his closest thing to an action vehicle. When I woke up I thought, “Yeah, actually I do want to rent BAIT.” So I did. You see, I don’t have a hundred updates a day for you guys, but I’m always working, even when I’m not conscious.

Foxx plays Alvin, a petty thief who gets busted trying to steal a bunch of prawns, and winds up in a cell with a guy (Robert Pastorelli) who recently betrayed his partner (Doug Hutchison) in a gold heist, and also is dying of a heart condition and gives Alvin a message for his wife which is a hint about the location of the hidden gold. The betrayed partner is a psychotic computer genius, and the Treasury Department wants him real bad ’cause he 1) killed two security guards and 2) broke a type of encryption that’s used to protect weapons, therefore posing a threat to national security. Or at least that’s their pitch when they ask for the money for a super-high-tech tracking device/bug that they implant in Alvin’s jaw without his knowledge before they get him released so they can surveil him until the psycho comes after him to get his gold back. (And no, the psycho is not a leprechaun. Maybe a metaphorical leprechaun, I haven’t really considered that yet. I’ll have to think on that a bit.)

This is when Foxx was known as a comedian. ANY GIVEN SUNDAY was his only non-comedy role at that point. So he does goofy shit while a control room full of people listens, watches things on a giant screen and looks at maps and files on smaller screens. David Morse is the Heartless Asshole In Charge, Jamie Kennedy is the Wacky Young Computer Expert, David Paymer is A Guy That’s There Also.

mp_baitI think they’re going for a 48 HOURS type of tone. Foxx is cracking jokes, but the action thriller around him is supposed to be serious. It’s only ludicrous because movies like this can be ludicrous, not as a joke. It gets into really corny territory with the little moments where the analysts in the control room are  rooting for Alvin to patch things up with his justifiably-fed-up girlfriend Lisa (Kimberly Elise) while David Morse seems to almost delight in him being in danger. Or when the woman in the control room kinda bites her lip and tries to hide that she’s turned on while they listen to Alvin and Lisa having sex.

We’re supposed to laugh at Alvin’s irresponsibility and then be proud of his sudden maturity. He keeps getting into trouble (like when he tries to turn in a resume at a restaurant he once robbed, and they recognize him) so the Treasury people have to keep intervening to save his ass without him knowing. They even start sending him checks from the government to make sure he doesn’t get too desperate for money.

It’s kind of cool but ridiculous when he suddenly starts recognizing the faces of people that have been following him, pieces together what’s happening and comes up with an action hero master plan. Of course he straightens shit out and everybody’s happy. I guess it’s kind of like the Ewoks triumphing over the technologically superior Empire using asymmetrical warfare. A dude that got busted stealing prawns can still elude their state-of-the-art tracking system just by getting Mike Epps to switch clothes with him.

I think the bug-in-the-jaw thing is actually supposed to seem like a cool idea, but I gotta say that as a tax payer I am extremely disappointed in this project. Not just due to privacy and human rights concerns, either. Just on its face you gotta wonder why they can’t keep track of him using the satellites and agents they already have, and then it turns out with those and the implant they still lose him. This whole program is a fiasco, I want answers.

The screenplay is by Andrew Scheinman (NORTH, KANGAROO JACK: G’DAY USA!, FLIPPED, THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE) but also Tony Gilroy. That’s pretty funny since he did all the BOURNE movies. I guess BAIT gave him some practice writing those scenes of government people looking at screens and saying lingo.

But BAIT has less in common with other Tony Gilroy joints than with MONEY TALKS. Both star a guy known from Def Comedy Jam as a dumb petty thief who jibber jabbers alot, talks tough but immediately backs down, screams during action scenes and slides into Al Pacino imitations for no reason. Both get busted for a petty crime and get mixed up in something huge by being in the vicinity of a big time criminal. And then they’re on the run from the bad guys and their girlfriends are angry at them for being fuckups but they sweet talk them about trying to be responsible now. I think MONEY TALKS is a way funnier movie, but it’s also interesting to me to contrast the instincts of its director Brett Ratner with BAIT’s Antoine Fuqua, both former music video directors. Ratner went for a retro feel: score by Lalo Schifrin, heavy use of Barry White song, classic car show provides vehicles for chase. Fuqua, on the other hand, was all about making a year 2000 movie with a serious action thriller score by Mark Mancina and using any possible chance for fake computery shit on the screen, whooshing us through a cartoonish CGI representation of the information super duper highway and stuff like that.

This was Fuqua’s second feature, after REPLACEMENT KILLERS. He’s gone on to movies that are a little more respectable – TRAINING DAY and TEARS OF THE SUN have their moments, and I kinda liked BROOKLYN’S FINEST too – but as far as their straight up hackwork, I kinda prefer the Ratner flavor. Or maybe I’m just a sucker for Lalo Schifrin.

I didn’t know this at the time, but I read that this movie was a huge money loser. And that’s probly a good thing. If Foxx had gone through BAIT 2 and 3 and other action comedies maybe he would’ve taken longer turning into a good actor. If you look at his filmography since 2000 he hasn’t done as many comedies as he’s done roles like Bundini Brown in ALI or Tookie Williams in a cable movie or COLLATERAL, RAY, JARHEAD, MIAMI VICE. Normally I don’t celebrate the funny-person-going-dramatic trajectory, but I think he’s turned out to do better work as a dramatic actor than as a comedian. Or R&B singer. And it all leads up to his excellent and I think under-recognized badass performance in DJANGO UNCHAINED. So thank you, box office failure of BAIT, for giving us Django.


This entry was posted on Friday, February 22nd, 2013 at 2:20 am and is filed under Action, Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

14 Responses to “Bait (2000)”

  1. so a woman spying on Jamie Foxx listens to him having and sex and getting turned on? is that supposed to be a reference to the scene in Toys when Jamie Foxx spies on Robin Williams and Robin Wright Penn having sex and gets turned on? (which was also his film debut, go figure)

    if not then that’s a weird coincidence

  2. I gotta say, Fuqua’s SHOOTER is a very enjoyable movie.

  3. Wow I had forgotten all about this. I remember seeing this back then and it was supposed to be like Jamie’s ENEMY OF THE STATE or something but with a more blatant sense of humor. Just a movie to make us forget that this was the guy who played Wanda every week and starred in BOOTY CALL but was still the funny black guy. It’s amazing how far the guy has come. Never would’ve thought in a million years that he’d be somebody with a few Oscar nominations under his belt by now.

  4. I do remember thinking this movie was a Junior League Bruckheimer/Tony Scott thriller, the same way Replacement Killers was Junior League Woo. But yeah, it wasn’t as funny or as exciting as it should have been.

    Doug Hutchison was excellent as the Junior League Malkovich though. And I’ll admit right now I wouldn’t have guessed what HE would be famous for in 2013 in a million years.

  5. Haven’t thought of this in a good 12 years. I remember Morse was way over the top and not in a mega acting way. He was just trying too hard to be intense. Love Paymer though. He should be in everything.

    BOOTY CALL is an amazing film though. 79 minutes of pure comedy gold.

    I remember I also made a joke about BAIT being a movie about a fishing competition in the town of Meteetsee during a nightcrawler shortage. Seemed funny at the time.

  6. Fred T – I agree on BOOTY CALL. It’s one of the more genuinely funny comedies with an all black cast from back then. Much better than stuff like SPRUNG and TRIPPIN’. I just find it genuinely shocking how Jamie tried so hard to distance himself from those type of roles for so long unsuccessfully and then thanks to Michael Mann boom his wish came true.

    Bunz is now an Oscar nominee and has been one on more than one occasion. That still kinda bugs me out a little but it’s also a great example of what not giving up on yourself when others have written you off can accomplish.

  7. Better than that. He’s an Oscar winner. He won for Ray. I forgot that he was also nominated for Collateral until I looked him up.

  8. Limey – Me and my friends nickname that movie SHITTER. (Surprisingly enough not thought up by AsimovLives. I know, shocking.)

  9. am I wrong or does it seem like Antoine Fuqua pretty much always just puts his own spin on current popular genres? you have the aforementioned BAIT and REPLACEMENT KILLERS as examples, but SHOOTER is his version of a Jason Bourne flick and KING ARTHUR is his version of a modern day historical epic ala TROY or GLADIATOR and TEARS OF THE SUN is a gritty modern day war movie ala BLACK HAWK DOWN

  10. I thought SPRUNG was a sweet rom-com for what it was and that director/star’s FEAR OF A BLACK HAT is one of my all time favs. But compared to the usual “black comedian and/or rapper in crazy shenanigns” BOOTY CALL is way more clever. But even more than that sub genre, it’s as clever as the counterparts like THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY. I think, this is off my memory. I do own the DVD so I could always revisit it.

  11. Vern, this comment is not related to this posting, but in your Lez Miz review, you mention your non-professional status. Fact is, you should be in a ‘professional’ rag. The only movie reviewer i ever liked was John Simon, but only when he was destroying a movie. When he cummed all over a movie it was gross. But Vern can move both ways, with hilarity. Not trying to kiss hind ass here, but i forced my wife to read your Miz review and i could hear her in the other room blasting every twenty seconds. She’s finally realizing that my copy of Seagalogy is no joke.

    I part with you on QT though. I despise his movies, except for Jackie Brown, which i would prefer to despise. I don’t think he’s an honest filmmaker. And as they say, “Honesty is the…”

    Seriously, what is your take on the use of the theme to 110th St. for the theme to Jackie? He’s lifting a theme song from another movie, which takes place on, yes, that street, and he’s using it for a theme to an LA movie, and he’s lifting it wholesale, for no apparent reason, AND he’s lifting the LAX color tile motif from HIT MAN????? I mean, the guy is all over the fuckin’ map here. But still i confess to liking that movie.

  12. “hear her in the other room blasting every twenty seconds.”

    might I ask what that means? she was so amazed by Vern’s reviewing prowess that she was brought to orgasm multiple times? because that’s the ifrst thing that pops in my head when I hear “blasting”

  13. Griff—“Blasting” doesn’t mean what you THINK it means, ya perv. I’m fairly sure Otto meant it like “having a blast”, as though his wife was laughing her ass off.

    Still… it’s tempting to think that Vern’s reviews have some hidden & potent aphrodisiac power, as yet untapped. I can almost see it now:

    “Larry, why do you always bring that Seagalogy book when you come over?”
    “Rest easy Constance, while I read aloud from the On Deadly Ground chapter.”
    “AGAIN?”
    “Silence, foul temptress… now assume the position!”

  14. GRIFF, point taken, it was a poor choice of words. You hit it right on. But my main point was that my wife was loving the Vern shit. I mean, she really was laughing the way i needed her to laugh. And Amazing Larry, thanks for watchin’ my back.

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