September 19, 2000 -- "Bait" is a standard Hollywood action film in "The Man Who Knew Too Much" tradition with good performances and character development that is a little above average. The plot is similar to, but not quite as good as, "Enemy of the State."
A mad genius, Bristol, (played by Doug Hutchison of "The Green Mile"), pulls off the perfect crime, almost, when he and his partner, John Jaster (played by Robert Pastorelli) steal $40 million in gold from the U.S. Treasury Department. Jaster leaves Bristol in the lurch at the crime scene and takes off with the gold. Jaster hides it somewhere.
After Jaster is caught, he is put into a cell with petty thief Alvin Sanders (Jamie Foxx of "Any Given Sunday"). Knowing he has a bad heart, he gives a clue to the location of the money to Sanders to give to Jaster's wife, just in case. After Jaster dies, the feds, led by the ruthless Edgar Clenteen (David Morse of "Contact"), plant a bug in Sanders and turn him loose, hoping Bristol will contact him. Sanders doesn't know about the bug and he doesn't know about Bristol.
Sanders is played as the typical Hollywood stereotype of a black crook, blustering, fast talking, street smart, occasionally dangerous when cornered. Foxx is also very funny in the first part of the film. Things get serious, however, when Sanders meets his old girlfriend Lisa Hill (played by Kimberly Elise of "Beloved"). He shows her a softer, more vulnerable person, the bluster fades away.
Soon Sanders is fighting for his life as the deadly Bristol hunts him down, looking for the clue he needs to find his gold. A game of cat and mouse ensues with Bristol outsmarting the entire treasury department in order to stay right behind Sanders. A couple of organized crime types are also after Sanders because they think he and his brother Stevie (Mike Epps) sold them out to the cops. The feds are also following Sanders around, trying to make sure he doesn't get into some other kind of trouble while acting as bait. It sounds more complicated than it really is.
In the Treasury Department's command center there is a bank of computer monitors and a task force follows Sanders' every move. The whole group becomes charmed by Sanders and they are rooting for him to stay out of further trouble with the law, and to survive his encounter with Bristol. Even Clenteen, who tries to stay aloof, finds himself rooting for Sanders.
Foxx does a fine job covering a wide range of emotions in this difficult role. Hutchison does a good John Malkovich impression (as in Malkovich's role in "In the Line of Fire") in his role as the clever, but heartless criminal mastermind. Morse is effective as the stoic agent Clenteen. The direction, by Antoine Fuqua ("The Replacement Killers") is good, but the plot had some serious logical problems. One of these problems has to do with where the gold was hidden and how it was hidden. The movie is also laden with action movie clichés. It rates a C+.
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