Bait does serve its primary purpose: to serve as a showcase for the comic talents of star Jamie Foxx, whose excitable energy is mirrored by the slick direction of Antoine Fuqua. Too bad there's too much of a story that asks that the suspension of disbelief be stretched to uncomfortable lengths.
The Bait of the title is Foxx's Alvin Sanders, a none-too-bright thief who is released early from prison because his arresting officer falsified evidence. Or, rather, that is the excuse cooked up by U.S. Treasury agent Edgar Clenteen (David Morse), who really wants to use Alvin to lure one Bristol (Doug Hutchison), the murderous mastermind behind a multimillion-dollar gold heist, out of hiding. Why Alvin? It turns out he was the cellmate of Bristol's now-deceased partner, who gave Alvin clues as to where the still-missing gold is hidden.
There is even more to this story. Alvin has been implanted with an electronic device that enables the Feds to monitor his every move and word. His release, let alone his being outfitted with such experimental technology, was done under the radar of the government highers-up, so in order for Clenteen's plan to work, Alvin has to stay out of trouble--a difficult thing for a career criminal such as he. However, Alvin does have some added motivation to stay on the straight and narrow--among the things he finds changed after 18 months in the pen is that girlfriend Lisa (Kimberly Elise, wasted) is now also mother to his baby son.
As can easily be gleaned, Bait is seriously overplotted (Andrew and Adam Scheinman and Tony Gilroy are the credited writers), let alone wildly far-fetched. This is, after all, an action comedy, and the scribes would have been wiser to pay more attention to the jokes. Nonetheless, given the narrative overload, Bait works better than expected. Foxx is able to sell even the weaker one-liners, and he is convincing when the story pushes him into action. Fuqua, who previously proved his ability to stylishly handle an action scene in The Replacement Killers, brings similar visual pizzazz to the set pieces here.
But the good in Bait isn't enough to overcome the crippling excess. In addition to the convoluted plot, there's the matter of the curious performance of Hutchison, who plays bad Bristol by channelling John Malkovich and Kevin Spacey's most effete mannerisms. Even Fuqua lets himself get out of hand, employing his flashy technique for a scene where Alvin quietly recalls a warm childhood memory. But these quibbles are likely to be lost on general audiences, whom I suspect (and understandably so) will not only eat up this shiny piece of product, but be satisfied by it as well. But for anyone looking for true cinematic nourishment, Bait is not a meal.
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