Reviewed by Colin Jacobson

Title: Bait (2000)
Studio Line: Warner Bros. - Alvin Sanders is going to help the Feds catch a killer. He just doesn't know it yet.

Alvin Dean Sanders doesn't get it. He doesn't know why his conviction for small-time theft is wiped from the record -- piff! -- just like that. Or why $11,500 in walking-around money is laid on him. Alvin doesn't know he's the bait in a snaky government scheme to capture a killer. But he's starting to grow suspicious.

Jamie Foxx (Any Given Sunday) plays Alvin, reeling in laughs and heroics in a high-tech action comedy, directed by Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) and also starring The Green Mile's David Morse and Doug Hutchison, Set It Off's Kimberly Elise and Jamie Kennedy (the Scream trilogy). The style is cutting-edge cool, the humor is crazy as a Foxx. Bait is a caper that -- hook, line and sinker -- just might grab you.

Director: Antoine Fugua
Cast: Jamie Foxx, David Morse, Robert Pastorelli, Doug Hutchison, Kimberly Elise
Box Office: Budget: $35 million. Opening Weekend: $5.485 million (2352 screens). Gross: $15.325 million.
DVD: Widescreen 2.35:1/16x9; audio English DD 5.1, French DD 5.1; subtitles English, French; closed-captioned; single sided - dual layered; 36 chapters; rated R; 119 min.; $19.98; street date 1/23/01.
Supplements: Feature-Length Audio Commentary by Jamie Foxx; Cast/Filmmaker Profiles.
Purchase: DVD | Music soundtrack - Various Artists

Picture/Sound/Extras: A/A-/C-

Pop this one in a time capsule! Bait deserves preservation for one reason alone: it’s about as picture-perfect an example of a mediocre action/comedy film circa 2000 as you’re likely to find.

In this modestly entertaining flick, inept criminal Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx) gets nabbed after he tries to steal loads of seafood - prawns, to be exact. This happens around the same time that a much larger heist grabs $42 million in gold. When one of that robbery’s perpetrators - underground-operator Jaster (Robert Pastorelli) - is arrested for DWI, he’s placed in the same cell as Alvin. Jaster soon kicks due to heart trouble, but not after he’s spilled some veiled beans to the shrimp king.

Since the other baddie is still on the prowl - and make no mistake, the psychopathic Bristol (Doug Hutchison) is a nasty guy - the feds - headed by gruff, rough agent Clenteen (David Morse) - use Sanders as the titular bait to reel in the main villain. The rest of the movie follows the actions that occur during this game of cat and mouse.

Too bad what we see wasn’t more original or entertaining. Bait isn’t a bad movie, but it’s insanely average in just about every way. Foxx is a decent performer, but he works best as a supporting character. Here he comes across as a cut-rate Martin Lawrence, and since the latter is just a poor man’s Eddie Murphy anyway, that makes Foxx sub-cut-rate, I guess. On occasion, Foxx manages to provide some spark to the proceedings, but not much.

Too much of Bait directly echoed other films. In addition to Foxx’s derivative performance, I felt some serious déjà vu at times. Bait often seemed like a more comic version of 1998’s Enemy of the State, especially since Jamie Kennedy played a member of both films’ surveillance teams! Now that’s type-casting! I also thought that Hutchison’s baddie came across like a bad imitation of John Doe from Se7en; Hutchison’s vocal patterns very closely echo those used for Doe, though I suppose any repressed white villain character would do for inspiration since it’s such an unoriginal piece.

Director Antoine Fuqua came from a music video background, and that shows through his stylized visuals. While this generates some interesting components, it also made the end product feel pretty shallow. Bait usually looks quite good, but the snazzy visuals don’t really add anything to the proceedings.

As I mentioned, I don’t consider Bait to be a bad movie. At 119 minutes, it’s too long; this kind of comedy/action flick should clock in at closer to 100 minutes, as it starts to get stale with the additional length. The film has a few fun moments, and it never becomes truly tiresome. However, it remains completely ordinary and has virtually no stand-out moments. I’ve seen worse, but I’ve seen better, too, and Bait simply lacks anything special.

The DVD:

Bait appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, single-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. The movie looked absolutely wonderful from start to finish, as this DVD provided a thoroughly terrific picture.

Sharpness appeared immaculate. At no time did I discern any hints of soft or fuzzy images throughout the film; it always looked very crisp and well-defined. This occurred without any noticeable edge enhancement, and I saw no signs of moiré effects or jagged edges. Print flaws also seemed absent; I witnessed no examples of any kinds of defects during the film.

Colors looked quite bright and vibrant. The film showed appropriately-saturated hues at all times, and the tones seemed very bold and vivid. Black levels came across as deep and rich, and shadow detail looked accurate without any excessive heaviness. Put simply, this was a smooth and detailed picture that showed no significant concerns.

Also excellent was the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Bait. The film’s many rap songs and the score most benefited from the strong delineation of the soundfield, as these elements spread cleanly and clearly across the forward channels. They also blasted appropriate reinforcement from the rears. Effects demonstrated strong depth as well. They showed accurate placement throughout the spectrum and the front speakers created a nicely realistic impression. The surrounds added a kick when necessary, and the track ultimately provided a fairly bold and immersive soundfield.

Audio quality seemed positive. Dialogue appeared natural and crisp without any edginess or problems related to intelligibility. Effects seemed clear and accurate, and they showed no signs of distortion; they were appropriately realistic and blunt. Music again demonstrated the most impressive reproduction, especially through the deep bass that accompanied many of the rap tunes; the high end was clean, but the depth really seemed strong. All in all, the soundtrack of Bait nicely complemented the film.

Bait features only a few extras, but we do find an audio commentary from star Jamie Foxx. This was the second time I’d listened to one of his tracks; the first one appeared on the 2-DVD special edition of Any Given Sunday. I found that commentary to be sporadically interesting at best, but it seemed scintillating compared to this dud. Foxx leaves lots of empty gaps in the track, and when he does speak, he rarely offers any useful or interesting information. Instead he prefers to describe the plot. This isn’t an exploration and explanation ala the excellent commentary offered by Anthony Minghella for The Talented Mr. Ripley; it’s simply a reiteration of the story, and believe me, it’s not such a complex tale that it requires discussion. In addition, Foxx says “actually” more times than I thought possible for such a brief period of time. Actually, this commentary was an almost-total waste of time.

In addition to this track, we find a “Cast and Crew” section. This provides filmographies for nine actors; however, the “Crew” members mentioned - director Fuqua and writers Andrew Scheinman, Adam Scheinman, and Tony Gilroy - are simply listed by name, with no additional information available. It seems odd that no trailer appears, but I guess space was tight on this single-layered disc; although the package says that it’s dual-layered, that doesn’t appear to be correct.

Although I found mild enjoyment during some parts of Bait, the piece as a whole offers little of interest. This is a rote action/comedy that essentially takes bits of other films and clips them together. The result provides occasional fun but doesn’t stand out in any way. However, picture and sound quality are excellent, though the sole “marquee” supplement - an audio commentary from Jamie Foxx - is a massive bore. Bait is the kind of movie you watch when it runs on cable and you’re too lazy to change the channel; that’s as strong a recommendation as I can offer for it.

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