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At Least Hilarious

By Bogdan Fedeles

Directed by: Antoine Fuqua

Written by: Andrew Scheinman and Adam Scheinman

Starring: Jamie Foxx, David Morse, Doug Hutchinson

Rated: R

Need fresh “bait” to go to a movie? Take this one. It will definitely make you laugh. If you want to have a good time watching a comedy with an action movie plot, then go see Bait. If you are looking for a movie that deals with philosophical problems and has some deep meaning, then you’re on the wrong track, as Bait doesn’t have such things.

As an action movie, Bait is just a poor outcome of a traditional recipe. The bad guy, Bristol (Doug Hutchinson) is an obsessed computer nerd who almost succeeds in stealing 42 million dollars in gold. The dedicated federal agent Edgar Clenteen (David Morse) is desperately trying to catch him, and when all conventional methods fail, he wires the small-time thief Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx) as bait to lure Bristol out of hiding. Alvin, of course, eventually saves the day. The plot development is entirely predictable and linear, and after seeing the first half-hour of the movie, you know it all. However, as a comedy, Bait is enjoyable (at least the small twists, gags, and humor are unpredictable).

The only comic character is Alvin, but Jamie Foxx’s performance as Alvin is enough to save the entire movie. Indeed, Jamie Foxx delivers an outstanding play, full of humor. Among the serious characters that are too typical to be real, Alvin stands out as a lively, real character that evolves a conscience and becomes aware of his importance in the plot. His innate naÏve stupidity, however, makes his every step hilarious and grants him a certain charm that all the other characters lack. You may laugh when Alvin acts stupidly, but only because he doesn’t look like he’s faking it -- thanks to Jamie Foxx’s impressive range of acting skills. For example, he tries to get a job at a bar he had robbed two years before. Also, when he is about to be tortured by Bristol, he claims that “this is New York, man. We don’t do things like that.”

All the other characters are stereotypical, and because they are static and don’t evolve, they fail to become credible and real. Although probably unintended, the contrast between their characters and Jamie Foxx’s character fuels the comical trend of the movie rather than working against it. Bristol represents the low-key, smooth criminal who uses high-tech methods to attain his goals. He has such advanced computer skills that he can easily access files from the NSA without being detected. He is supposed to be more frightening than funny, but he is neither. He remains just an undeveloped, artificial character, even if Doug Hutchinson’s performance is as good as it can be.

Edgar Clenteen is an extremely dutiful agent whose outstanding diligence cannot be motivated in the context of the movie. He is a dull character, and sometimes stupid, without being funny, despite David Morse’s considerable effort in rendering a good performance. Clenteen rushes in every time he is about to catch Bristol, creating too much noise and confusion which gives the latter the opportunity to escape.

Even if Bait doesn’t offer an incredibly good plot, it still offers an outstanding array of visual and auditory effects. The young director Antoine Fuqua tries to prove himself in his second movie, and he succeeds in most areas. The unconventional shooting angles give a taste of the modern cinematography without being entirely annoying. The New York backgrounds are well chosen, though they contribute less to the picture focused exclusively in the foreground. Special effects are abundant and well directed, including the typical action-movie ingredients like car chasing, gun shooting, bomb explosions, and explicit violence. Nevertheless, some of this scenes are exaggerated like, for example, Alvin’s extreme jump from an exploding truck at high speed. The balance between hilarious scenes and romantic scenes is constantly maintained and very well supported by the soundtrack. Indeed, the music is an inspired mix of hip-hop pieces by well-known artists like MYA, Scarface, The Roots and even Jamie Foxx, to name a few.

The dialogue in this movie is an important comical element. Although the New York slang may not be delightful at times, it certainly gives authenticity to the plot. Alvin is just a loquacious Bronx burglar whose uncertain ideas show up in his continuos mumbling and happens to be very entertaining. However, a lot of the lines of other characters are clichÉs with very few sparks of originality.

Despite its obvious commercial elements, Bait is an enjoyable movie, and if you want to relax and laugh a bit, this is the movie to go to. Other than that, don’t expect too much, because you may be disappointed.