This generic summer popcorn movie would be instantly forgettable if not for the sour aftertaste left by its climax, with a nuclear bomb set to explode in New York City’s Grand Central Station. We are just not ready for a scene like that, and it would not be so bad if we never were again.
Chris Rock plays Jake Hayes, a streetwise hustler who finds out that not only did he have an identical twin brother who was adopted while he was shuttled to foster homes, but that his brother was a brilliant, sophisticated spy, and that he was killed just as a crucial future-of-the-world-depends-in-it deal was about to be concluded. His brother’s partner, Gaylord Oakes (Anthony Hopkins), a spy so cool that he chews gum while he shoots people, recruits Hayes to take his brother’s place. Oakes has nine days to train Hayes and is instructed by his supervisor not to tell him that he may be killed.
Rock is not an actor. He can barely get through the part of Hayes, which is written around his strengths, and his brief attempt to play the spy brother is painful to watch. Every so often, the script lets him go into one of his stand-up rants and his charm and wit come alive. Hopkins, of course, is a magnificent actor, and he does his best to create a real character out of the cardboard script.
Parents should know that the movie has a great deal of violence with characters, including a terrified young woman, in frequent peril. They use strong language and there is some drug humor. Hayes says that if his girlfriend is pregnant, he will marry her, but if she is not, he is not in a hurry. Hayes has the opportunity to have sex with a gorgeous woman. He jokes about it, but remains faithful to his girlfriend. Rock’s mugging is occasionally uncomfortably reminiscent of the racist stereotypes perpetuated by early movie stars like Step’n Fetchit.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Hayes and his brother turned out so differently. They had some things in common, like playing chess, and were both very talented, but they went in entirely different directions. Is that attributable to the way they were raised? Did seeing what his brother could do change Hayes’ ideas about what he could do?