Forty-two million in gold has been stolen from the Federal Reserve and only one of the thieves was caught. To catch the mastermind behind the heist of the decade, the U.S. Treasury Department is going to need fresh bait.
Landing in jail for a petty theft crime, Alvin (Jamie Foxx) finds himself sharing a cell with the incarcerated half of the pair of high-tech bandits responsible for the missing gold. Knowing his heart is about to fail, the thief gives Alvin a coded message concerning the whereabouts of the stolen gold. The investigator in charge of the heist sets Alvin free, but with designs on using the unsuspecting small time crook as bait to catch the psycho computer geek who’s searching for the missing loot.
Although Jamie Foxx has a likeable screen presence, reminiscent of an urban Bob Hope, complete with a fake bravado that quickly disappears whenever threatened, this cat-and-mouse action thriller mixes extremely violent images with its humor. In the opening scenes for example, the psychopathic villain executes two helpless guards. Then we cut to Foxx’s character making jokes about his inept efforts at robbing a fish factory. In nearly every instance, the film’s killings become inconsequential due to jokes made by either the lead or Doug Hutchinson, the film’s bad guy. Hutchinson plays his villain with a controlled malevolence, using a perfect vocal impersonation of a younger John Malkovich. But he’s in his own film. While Foxx jokes about sex, drugs and rock and roll, the antagonist brutalizes his victims with the same casualness as Hannibal Lecter. While Scorsese used humor to make violence palatable in “Goodfellas,” here it just further desensitizes the audience, as if the deaths of minor characters were insignificant.
There are some funny moments, but the film’s humor stems from crudity, abusive language and stereotypical portraits. And the action turns grim with its savagery. We are unable to award the Dove Seal to “Bait.”