Monday, January 8, 2007

Movie Review: Bait 4 Stars

Don’t be dissuaded by the piss-poor marketing! Bait is not another half-assed action-comedy like Blue Streak, nor is it merely an excuse for Jamie Foxx to crack wise.

Granted, it is funny. There are knee-slapping lines and hilarious references that will bring tears to your eyes. But the comedy definitely, thankfully takes a back seat to the action. Jokes are appropriate, rather than inserted. Comic situations arise from dramatic tension. And unlike many of his contemporaries, Jamie Foxx isn’t just wacky voices and funny faces. His delivery is borne of character, not schtick. The man can act his ass off.

When two Federal Reserve agents are murdered in a forty-million-dollar heist of gold bullion, no-nonsense Treasury Department chief investigator Clenteen (David Morse), sickened by the brutal crime, vows to bring the perpetrators to justice. Simultaneously, small-time hood Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx) is arrested for stealing a bag of shrimp. He spends eight hours in a Riker’s Island holding cell with safecracker John Jaster (Robert Pastorelli), who was contracted on the Federal Reserve job.

Playing bad-cop, worse-cop, Clenteen questions Jaster, who dies of a heart attack before he can provide information about Bristol, the man responsible for the murder of the two agents. Convinced that Alvin Sanders knows where the gold is, Clenteen plants a tracking device in his cheek, “arranges” for Sanders to be released on a loophole, and dangles the ex-con as bait to capture evil computer genius Bristol (Doug Hutchinson, doing his best John Malkovich impersonation).

There are outstanding performances from David Morse, Doug Hutchinson and a mostly reserved Jamie Foxx, but the true star of Bait is director Antoine Fuqua, who has the wisdom to temper intense action and pressure-cooked drama with comedy and not vice versa. With an acute visual style and masterful pacing, Fuqua has created an unwavering, taut political thriller from Andrew and Adam Scheinman and Tony Gilroy’s script. Bait is a relentless assault on the senses, heart-pounding and manifest.

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