Plot twists and turns can make or break a movie. Mishandled, a clever and smart film can completely be undermined by its big finale. Thankfully, Damian Harris' 1995 high-concept erotic spy thriller Bad Company smartly handles it's plot machinations by showing just enough cards to keep you in the game without giving away its entire hand. Starring Laurence Fishburne, Ellen Barkin, and Frank Langella, Bad Company is a solid thriller that doesn't overstay its welcome or blow the big finish. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings the film to Blu-ray in middling order with a sadly dated video transfer and audio mix. The director's audio commentary is well worth a listen. It's not the best Blu-ray out there, but it's a good flick and well Worth A Look.
High-concept used to be the "it" phrase to describe your pitch to any producer. Right away it was supposed to put them in a place of anticipation and excitement about what genre crossovers your little yarn would knit together. Today - it's a passé and could kill your script before it's even read. 1995's Bad Company from director Damian Harris and starring Laurence Fishburne, Ellen Barking, with Frank Langella and Michael Beach is the sort of high-concept material that actually pulls it off. Part erotic thriller, part film noir, part spy thriller, Bad Company plays things deceptively simple as it builds towards a fitting conclusion without blowing the game.
CIA black ops agent Nelson Crowe (Laurence Fishburne) is on the outs with the agency. Blackballed for supposedly failing to deliver a $50,000 bribe in gold, Crowe finds himself in the fringe outskirts of the intelligence community known as the Toolshed lead by the enigmatic Vic Grimes (Frank Langella). Shadowed by fellow operative Margaret Wells (Ellen Barkin), Crowe is tasked with any number of illegal activities - including bribing Supreme Court Justice Beach (David Ogden Stiers) into changing his opinion about a case. As Crowe and Wells find themselves in bed together in more ways than one, the pair share visions of double-crossing Grimes and running the Toolshed themselves. But when everyone is betraying one another, it's impossible to know who to trust.
Bad Company was the sort of middling, better than average espionage thriller that one would find on a premium movie channel late at night. That's actually how I found this film. Through bouts of insomnia, Bad Company was a frequent midnight companion. Not bad enough to immediately turn off and keep channel surfing, not amazing enough to be the movie you would immediately recommend to friends, but good enough to leave on with the lights off. Much of the strength of the film comes from the interplay and chemistry between Fishburne and Barkin. Without these two actors in the lead, I have a hard time imagining folks seeing the film through to the twisty turn ending that makes the film worthwhile.
Perhaps that's the biggest issue with Bad Company. The film tries to keep its secrets by showing its hold cards at the same time. A lot of the movie seems very one note, on the nose and basic. What would constitute a "twist" doesn't come off and just looks stylish with good actors slipping out clever dialogue. If the movie was just that, it would be a big disappointment. That first 45-minutes is heavy on exposition with twists that feel very obvious. But, if you can work your way past that mark and let the story really sink in, you'd discover that it's a lot smarter than it lets on and is far more crafty than it seems. It's not perfect mind you. Admittedly, that first 45-minutes can feel a bit hammy, trite, and very on the nose, but by the end, I'm convinced most viewers would find the journey worth the time without a lame "Scooby Doo" ending.
Given that it has probably been closing in on 20 years since I last saw Bad Company, I was glad to see that it held up well and wasn't just a piece of midnight nostalgia from my late teenage years when I couldn't sleep. It may not be the greatest film ever made, but it gets more right than wrong and benefits from a very strong cast. Fishburne and Barkin on their own make the movie great, but toss in a steely Frank Langella and a slimy sly Michael Beach, with a cagy David Ogden Stiers and you start to appreciate why the flick works in the first place. It's certainly one to keep on your watch list for when you find yourself up late at night and need something to keep you company.
Vital Disc Stats: The Blu-ray
Bad Company drops onto Blu-ray courtesy of Kino Lorber and their Studio Classics label. Pressed onto a Region A BD-25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard sturdy Blu-ray case. The disc loads to a static image main menu with traditional navigation options.
For how well shot Bad Company is courtesy of Director of Photography Jack Green, I wish it had been given a fresh remastering. From the looks of things this 1080p 2.39:1 transfer was probably sourced from the same scan utilized for the old DVD. Admittedly, it is better than your average upconverted DVD, there is an appreciable uptick in clarity and detail, but only just so much. Close-ups look great, middle shots are fine, but wide shots tend to struggle. There are brief soft patches and periods where the image just looks flat and lifeless. Colors are strong, but never really striking. Black levels are on par but there is still plenty of room for improvement. The source elements are in good shape with only mild speckling. For a movie that wasn't a huge hit when it made it to theaters, this is probably the best we'll get, even though it could look better.
Like the video, the supplied English DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track for Bad Company could have benefited from a little extra TLC. Dialogue is clean enough without much issue - however there are a few moments were Langella can talk low and slurry where his words can come off like mush mouth requiring a brief punch in volume. Scoring is on point and sound effects work well to give this stereo mix some presence and life, but it isn't very dynamic. Free of any hiss or age-related issues this mix more or less just goes through the motions. It gets by, but one can tell it could have used an upgrade.
While there may not be a huge package of bonus features for Bad Company, what's here is pretty good. The Damian Harris audio commentary is a great listen as it's the main bonus feature, but it also offers up a lot of interesting tidbits about the production. So if you're a fan give that a listen.
Audio Commentary featuring director Damian Harris. There are a few gaps and pauses throughout the track but it's an informative and interesting track to listen to.
Animated Stills & Behind The Scenes Gallery (HD 3:36)
Theatrical Trailer (SD 2:08)
Malice Trailer (SD 1:57)
Consenting Adults Trailer (SD 1:50)
China Moon Trailer (SD 1:31)
Deceived Trailer (SD 1:47)
Shattered Trailer (SD 1:51)
Bad Company certainly isn't the best high-concept spy thriller of the ages, but for what it sets out to accomplish, it does a solid job. Deceptively simple, the film keeps it's best aces up its sleeves for a final act that makes the admittedly slow and on the nose start worth pushing through. Plus, great turns from leads Barkin and Fishburne make for an attractive and dynamic duo to showcase the seedier side of the intelligence community. Kino Lorber Studio Classics brings Bad Company to Blu-ray in middling order. Unfortunately, the image and audio haven't seen much of an upgrade over the years and sport a decidedly dated look and sound quality. It's certainly watchable, but far from perfect. Thankfully the audio commentary makes for a great listen. On the whole, Bad Company is one most people should enjoy and is certainly at the very least Worth A Look.