Nothing to Lose

on July 18, 1997 by Wade Major
   This Touchstone effort doesn't exactly recapture the golden formula of such previous mismatched interracial buddy pictures as "48HRS.," "Trading Places" and the "Lethal Weapon" series, but it does manage to maintain a hapless charm of its own that, though often clumsy and unfocused, should keep fans of its two leads pleasantly entertained.
   Tim Robbins ("The Shawshank Redemption") stars as Nick Beam, a Los Angeles advertising executive whose apparently happy married life comes to a crashing halt when he comes to believe that his wife ("Jerry Maguire's" Kelly Preston) is having an affair with his boss ("That Darn Cat's" Michael KcKean). Before he can complete a downward spiral into suicidal despair, he becomes the victim of carjacker T. Paul ("A Thin Line Between Love and Hate's" Martin Lawrence). Having literally "nothing to lose," Nick turns the tables on his attacker, taking the panic-stricken man on a terror-filled ride through congested city streets before finally journeying out into the boonies and winding up somewhere in the desolate flats of Arizona.
   Faced with a series of bizarre obstacles--including being pursued by a pair of homicidal road bandits played by John C. McGinley ("Hard Eight") and Giancarlo Esposito ("Fresh")--Nick and T. form a reluctant partnership to get back to L.A., becoming friends along the way and hatching a plan to rob Nick's boss of his life savings.
   As buddy pictures go, "Nothing to Lose" is one of the more obvious ones, with hardly an original or inventive twist to be found. Thanks to the comic chemistry between Robbins and Lawrence, the damage is minimal. Like a modern-day Abbott and Costello, Robbins' droll understatement and Lawrence's manic outbursts transform even the most bizarre, seemingly unsurmountable predicaments into some memorable hilarity.
   For writer/director Steve Oedekerk, the film is something of a middling success: a monumental step up from his last effort as a hyphenate, "Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls," yet well shy of the more balanced resonance of his "The Nutty Professor" script. During a cinema summer besought with action bombast, of course, audiences are unlikely to fret over the shortcomings of so simple a film, as long as there are equally simple pleasures to be found somewhere along the way. Starring Tim Robbins, Martin Lawrence, John C. McGinley, Giancarlo Esposito and Kelly Preston. Directed and written by Steve Oedekerk. Produced by Martin Bregman, Dan Jinks and Michael Bregman. A Buena Vista release. Comedy. Rated R for pervasive strong language and a sex scene. Running time: 98 min
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