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Company Business
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by Jack Sommersby

"Lackluster Spy Comedy"
1 stars

Met with largely negative reviews and a paltry $1,501,785 worldwide gross, it's unlikely this is far from a little-seen treasure ripe for rediscovery.

It’s no secret Gene Hackman is one of our busiest actors, appearing in several films a year, and since his extraordinary Oscar-nominated turn in Mississippi Burning he’s been working even more. His last time out was as the heroic assistant district attorney in Peter Hyams’s superb Narrow Margin; his latest, in the dreary action-comedy Company Business, is as Sam Boyd, an industrial-espionage spy who finds himself called back to duty by his ex-employer, the CIA, and it’s neither a plum part nor a plum movie. And it certainly isn’t a plum for writer/director Nicholas Meyer, who gave us the outstanding, best-in-the-series Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and the engaging Tom Hanks/Tom Candy comedy Volunteers (I’ll kindly forget his 1989 The Deceivers, starring Pierce Brosnan, which was abysmal on all counts.) The muddled, lacking-in-immediacy plot has something to do with Sam being summoned by the CIA (what leverage they have over him, we don’t know) to act as intermediary for a prisoner exchange in West Berlin consisting of U.S.-imprisoned Russian spy Pyotr Grushenko (Mikhail Baryshnikov) to be traded for an American scientist being held in Russia for two-million dollars (though why the money is being supplied by a Colombian drug lord, we also don’t know, other than Meyer taking an easy swipe at the embarrassing allegiance between the Reagan administration and the Panama drug lord Manuel Noriega). Naturally, Sam and Pyotr don’t get off to the best of starts, and after the exchange goes awry and the two are forced to team together to stay one step ahead of both the CIA and KGB who want them dead to avoid a public-relations scandal damaging to both countries, they naturally become more tolerant with one another (à la Midnight Run), globe-trotting and trying to launder the marked money so they can escape and retire to an island paradise safe from their pursuers. I thought Baryshnikov was sensational in his first starring role, in the 1985 White Nights, where he was charismatic and forceful, but here he’s gaunt-looking, downright diminutive, and mostly sullen from start to finish -- it was if he were willing to accept an easy paycheck yet couldn’t bring himself to disguise his disgust over his decision; the affable Hackman, whose witty underplaying suggests a private joke he’s got going on with the audience, tries to get something of a rapport going with Baryshnikov but would’ve been better off trying to animate a granite statue. Despite the movie having been shot on locations in Berlin and Paris, and Meyer having employed one of the best cinematographers in the business, Gerry Fisher, there isn’t a single expressive image to be found, with Meyer’s boxy, cramped compositions having all the visual vivacity of an industrial-training video. And it all culminates in one of the most abrupt endings in cinematic history, as if a drunken projectionist has accidentally switched up the reels. (Reportedly, the studio, MGM, took final cut away from Meyer, but this still doesn’t excuse the poorly-shaped, inadequately-framed scenes that have all the fluidity of a traffic jam.) There’s a semi-funny running joke with Sam’s newly-acquired taste for a Russian flavored vodka, but it’s the audience who would’ve been better off getting sloshed before sitting through this joyless atrocity.

A Tupperware convention would be more enjoyable.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=12360&reviewer=327
originally posted: 04/04/15 21:16:19
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User Comments

5/05/17 Alex Diaz-Granados Meyer admits that this is a bad movie. 1 stars
6/13/05 Steve Newman why on earth did I watch this rubbish - very very poor 2 stars
6/01/05 tatum Surprisingly bland actioner, Hackman tries his best 2 stars
5/19/05 Jack Sommersby Its two gifted stars flail away in a painfully unfunny spy comedy. 1 stars
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  06-Sep-1991 (PG-13)



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