Bad Company

Friday, January 1, 1999

I fail to understand the logic behind remaking well-known films. Take the recent remake of Diabolique, for instance. What is possibly to be gained by remaking a generally well-regarded film with an inferior cast, except possibly to fuel the director and producer's desire to commit hubris. Certainly, the filmgoing public is not served by these remakes as they are, almost without exception, far inferior to those films that inspired them.

For years, I had adopted an attitude that all remakes were, by their very nature, lousy; however, I recently came to the conclusion that the problem lies in filmmakers trying to remmake films that are already pretty good. Instead of remmaking a film by Hitchcock or Hawks, why not find a film with a somewhat interesting script that was horribly miscast, misdirected, and generally bungled in every instance possible.

Like, for instance, Bad Company.

The film starts with a massively overplotted script by the master of overplotted American spy novels, Ross Thomas. I suppose an argument could be made that Ross Thomas' fiction does not lend itself to film, as an average Thomas story consists of no less than 67% of the narrative devoted to people standing around discussing what they intend to do, rather than actually doing it. Still, in the right hands, this could be made into a film as interesting as the novels.

Sadly, Damian Harris does not possess these hands. I have a hard time passing judgement on Mr. Harris, as he did write and direct the notable film, The Rachel Papers. Nevertheless, he seems to have no idea how to handle this script. He gets uncomfortable with the concept of a man and woman talking, so instructs them to have sex while they carry on the conversation. Not a good sign.

Of course, the most lowly hack could have done a passable job had he been supported by somewhat sane casting choices. Thomas novels generally feature one of two general protagonist types. The first is the older, mind-bogglingly cynical, hard-boiled Agency vet. The other is the young turk, who is a ballsy upstart, but highly honorable and interested in the history and tradition of being a secret agent. This film contains both characters, casting Frank Langella in the former and Laurence Fishburne in the latter. Wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. (I think I will avoid even mentioning Ellen Barkin -- I will merely state that her career has been a dismal spiral ever since Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai...)

So, why not option this script again (it's been 6 years -- i'm sure it's available by now) and do it right? Give it to John Dahl, maybe. Put Edward Norton in it. Can't go wrong (or, at least, not any more wrong).

Rating: D- (Begs to be Done Well)

Reviewed by Padgett Arango
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