September 21, 2000

How To Catch A Foxx

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The essential elements of the Hollywood smash are simple: big star, big director, big explosions, big billboards. Throw in a plot that perfectly balances originality and cliche, release it on Memorial Day or Independence Day, and voila: you have a blockbuster.

The producers of Bait, the latest Jamie Foxx vehicle, knew this formula. They succeeded in producing a decent movie, but it’s ultimately just a good imitation of a blockbuster.

Bait tells the story of Alvin Sanders (Foxx), a small-time crook who accidentally receives a clue about the location of 40 million dollars worth of government gold that was stolen by a criminal mastermind named Bristol (Doug Hutchinson) and secretly hidden by his accomplice. The government realizes that while hunting for his missing gold, Bristol will adamantly pursue Alvin. As a result they implant a sophisticated tracking device inside Alvin’s jaw and use him as bait to catch the psychopath. Bait follows the ignorant Alvin as he is released from prison and pursued by Bristol, all the while trying to stay out of prison, get a job, reconcile with his ex-girlfriend and baby son, and ultimately save the day.

Bait jumps among too many genres, and Jamie Foxx struggles as he tries to balance his dynamic character. He shines, as usual, in the comedic moments. But despite his somewhat successful foray into “serious” acting, as in Any Given Sunday, he neither convinces as a “serious actor” nor as an action hero — so he’s not quite the big star a blockbuster demands. Fortunately, the rest of the characters are more one-dimensional, and several members of the cast turn in quality performances. Kimberly Elise is especially convincing as Alvin’s estranged girlfriend. Davis Morse is also believable as a Dennis Franz-esque hardass investigator.

Bait’s depictions of the government sometimes border on the ridiculous: apparently its offices are filled with Armani-clad Marcus Schenkenberg look-alikes, who also happen to be computer geniuses, and who spend all day in strategically-lit state-of-the-art chambers watching dazzling walls of computers.

Bait has definite appeal. Sure, it’s an imitation, but imitations aren’t all bad. It at least reminds us of a quality blockbuster. It’s a fast-paced, entertaining film, with few dull moments, some bona fide laughs and superb cinematography. We all crave a good old blockbuster at times, especially after a summer that was so devoid of a good old box-office smash.

Bait at least provides a momentary “fix.” It won’t break box office records — it might not even have a first-place weekend — but come on, what did you expect for a mid-September release?

Archived article by Julia Ramey