Bait

"We put him out there, make it known that he knows where the gold is and I guarantee our gold thief will show up."

Bait is a thriller in which the hero and the villain spend their screen time competing for who is more annoying. It should not be this way. A movie like this should have a hero who is likable, not a scoundrel, and a villain who is menacing, not just irritating. This one tries to be everything but suceeds in barely anything. Its stars — Jamie Foxx, Doug Hutchinson and especially David Morse — have all seen better days.

Foxx plays Alvin Sanders a small-time criminal, just out of jail and about to go back for stealing some shrimp. (Not shrimp, he insists. Prawns.) At the same time, a major gold theft is going down. The mastermind, a computer nerd named Bristol (Doug Hutchinson), mistakenly gives his lackey the keys. Needless to say, his assistant takes the gold and breaks for it. Later, he’s arrested and brought in front of no-nonsense U.S. Treasury Agent Clenteen (David Morse) — but not before he hides the gold in an undisclosed location. In the interrogation room, he has a heart attack and dies.

This leaves both the Treasury and the greedy Bristol out of luck. There is one ray of hope: Alvin briefly shared a cell with the thief and he may have been given a clue about where the loot is hidden. Clenteen hopes to kill about 17 birds with one stone by implanting a tracking microchip in Alvin’s skull and sending him back out on the street in the hopes that the gold thief shows up.

There isn’t one fundamental problem with Bait. It doesn’t work because the screenwriters and director made a lot of bad choices. In Alvin, the movie tries to paint an intelligent, resourceful character but relies too much on “urban” stereotypes. He comes off as a liar and a bit of a creep; certainly not a likeable action hero and not someone we can root for very often.

The villain, too, leaves a lot to be desired. Doug Hutchinson is a great actor — witness The Green Mile and even his guest stint as Eugene Tooms on the first season of The X-Files. Here, the script places him in a no-win situation. There’s never a moment when we don’t wish he would leave the screen. Bristol is not only arrogant and annoying, he’s also whiny — the last thing we want from a supervillain.

The climax employs the old cliche of working-against-the-red-ticking-bomb-timer and insults our intelligence by giving the character about twice as much time as there actually is on the clock. If the stunt he has to pull was going to take 20 seconds instead of 10, why not just put 20 seconds on the clock?

David Morse almost saves this movie as the tough Treasury Agent. His character is the only interesting thing here; maybe I’d have liked the movie more if the focus was shifted to him. The film as a whole is an overblown time-waster, a crime thriller that fails to thrill. Jamie Foxx is a decent comedian and a likeable actor, as he proved in the otherwise sub-par Any Given Sunday but here, he is forced into a script that does nothing but exploit and condescend. He has finally been given a starring role on the big screen, but it’s not the right one.

-- Eugene Novikov

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