Taking the Bait

There is a cycle occurring among some young, black male actors. They begin in a comedic series on television, then move up to some mediocre action film, in which they play the hero while still making the wise cracks that made them famous in the first place. After that they graduate, hopefully, to more serious material which offers higher salaries and, perhaps, some critical acclaim.

Sometimes it works, like in the case of Will Smith – Fresh Prince of Bel Air to Bad Boys to the upcoming Bagger Vance. Other times it doesn’t, as Damon Wayans found out when his In Living Color fame brought him The Last Boyscout and not much else. Jaime Foxx (Any Given Sunday), who was also on In Living Color and now has a self-titled show on the WB, has entered the precarious middle stage of this progression with his new film, Bait (Warner Bros.).

It is hard to become too passionate either way about Bait. There is nothing particularly wrong with the film except that it has been done before, in the films mentioned above as well as countless others.

Foxx plays Alvin Sanders, a bumbling burglar stealing odd things. He is in jail with another burglar, played by Robert Pastorelli (Dances with Wolves), who knows the location of $42 million in gold bars. The investigator in the gold robbery, played by David Morse (The Green Mile) in an over-the-top performance, uses Foxx as bait to get Pastorelli’s partner to confess where the gold is located.

As usual in films of this type, the bad guy – a robber – is the hero, while the good guy – a policeman – is the villain. For much of the movie, Morse is in a control room with his team, including Jaime Kennedy (Scream) and David Paymer (Mr. Saturday Night) tracking and listening to Sanders’ speeches through a device secretly planted in his cheek – Mission Impossible 2 anyone? Morse spends most of this part scowling and screaming as his team openly roots for Foxx.

Foxx, naturally, has a devoted girlfriend in Lisa, played by Kimberly Elise (Beloved), and an adorable toddler, Greg. His sarcastic wise-guy personality is on display once again, even though it is detrimental to the film. Bait would be a much better film if Foxx played the role without attempts at humor, as Will Smith did in Enemy of the State. The audience does not believe that Foxx’s character is in peril because he is constantly making them laugh.

Bait is as good a film as this genre can produce. America would probably be able to survive without another film of this type for at least another year. Unfortunately, that is not likely to happen. Not worth paying full price to see, Bait is adequate enough for a matinee viewing. Unfortunately for Foxx, this film may do exactly what Bad Boys did to Martin Lawrence – relegate him to this type of film forever.

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