Wednesday, July 23, 1997

Nothing to Lose

Posted By on Wed, Jul 23, 1997 at 12:00 AM

While it may seem that Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon are determined to take the "buddy picture" genre to their graves (watery or otherwise), Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence step into the ring with Nothing to Lose, to fight for their right to banter in the love/hate relationship squared circle. Better still, for the most part they succeed. Director-writer Steven Oedekerk (who helmed both Ace Venturas and worked on "In Living Color") seems to realize full well that even if you don't have constant fireworks and chemistry between your leads, physical comedy and zany energy can carry a flick through the rough stuff. To that end, the gangly, Jimmy Stewart-gone-haywire Robbins and the hyperkinetic Lawrence are the ideal blank slates upon which Oedekerk draws the broad slapstick gags that carry this film between its plot points.

Nick Beam is an advertising executive who comes home early from his workday to find his loving wife (Kelly Preston) apparently in the sack with his virility-obsessed boss (Michael McKean). Nick goes into a catatonic state that allows him to drive through busy intersections without fear of being smashed and even allows him to drive from his cloistered upper-middle-class hood into a not-so-upper-middle-class part of LA, where he meets T (Lawrence) a small-time carjacker with an unloaded gun. The devil-may-care Beam flips the script on T and carjacks him. The two soon find themselves bound together by circumstance and eventually they become reluctant partners committing reluctant crime. As they plan "the big score" and revenge on Beam's boss, much wackiness ensues.

Providing comic relief from the comic relief is another ebony-and-ivory crime duo, Charlie and Rig, played by Giancarlo Esposito and John C. McGinley, respectively. These two highway bandit lunatics are the real deal and the idiosyncratic performances turned in by Esposito and McGinley up the ante on our main duo comedically and criminally.

Both Robbins and Lawrence turn in sympathetic performances as good men in bad circumstances, so you actually wind up giving a rat's ass about whether or not they get busted or killed or get their revenge and find the good life. Oedekerk turns in one of the film's funniest performances as a night security guard disco dancing to the accompaniment of a clock radio and an alarm system as laser light show. There are just enough of these big laugh moments executed with enough physical panache to make Nothing to Lose a pleasant surprise among the summer action-adventure-fantasy cacophony.

E-mail comments to letters@metrotimes.com.

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