Director Anthony Fuqua doesn't seem terribly interested in the plot of "Bait," a impotent "Enemy of the State" knock-off that reeks of a sloppy re-write designed to accommodate the comedy stylings of Jamie Foxx in the Will Smith-type role.
Fuqua's main focus is turning the picture into a resume-builder and he spends the whole two hours showing off his technique. Dripping with visual flair overkill, the chase scenes, stunts and explosions get the deluxe treatment. A 30-second sex scene is shot from about 20 angles. Even a throwaway speech Foxx gives about missing his father (it's just a line to get his ex-girlfriend in the sack) is filmed with four or five cameras -- one of them restlessly circling him as he mock-emotes -- and edited with slow-motion effects and multiple fade-ins and fade-outs.
"Lookie what I can do!" Fuqua seems to be saying, much as he did in "The Replacement Killers," Chow Yun-Fat's Hong-Kong-style American debut. "Please don't send me back to making music videos!"
All this style wouldn't seem quite so absurd if it were employed in a movie that had something else going for it. But "Bait" is an unduly dramatic, gimmicky movie, played out by second-tier actors chosen as being "close enough" to the actors Fuqua obviously wished he could afford.
Foxx (first choice Will Smith) is a small-time crook pinched for stealing prawns ("Not shrimp baby, prawns!") who shares a holding cell with a suspect in a daring $42 million gold heist at the Manhattan Federal Reserve. The suspect dies in custody, but not before giving Foxx a cryptic message about where he hid the gold from a sociopathic partner he double-crossed.
So an obstinate Treasury Department cop (a stoic David Morse) arranges to have Foxx surgically implanted with an "experimental" tracking device (without our hero's knowledge), then puts him out on the street, hoping he'll be found by the creepy-calm and ultra-violent mastermind behind the Reserve break-in (played by Doug Hutchison, the psycho prison guard in "The Green Mile," doing his very best to channel John Malkovich).
A team of about a dozen agents then watch Foxx go about his business (mostly trying to get his girlfriend back) on a multi-million dollar satellite system in a huge steel room with lots of video monitors, waiting for Hutchison to show up so they can bust him.
It's clear from the way Foxx's wisecracks are crowbarred into the script that "Bait" began life as some kind of conspiracy action-thriller that wouldn't have been very good anyway. But while Foxx might be capable of playing an appealing action-comedy hero (if he would stop with the sitcomy delivery and shave that ridiculous chin-strap facial hair), Fuqua is too busy showing off to waste his time on something as frivolous as characters or actors.
When Hutchison does show up, kidnapping Foxx's girlfriend (Kimberly Elise) and their toddler son, it's little more than a set-up for a count-down-to-explosion finale, timed by the ubiquitous digital read-out on a very big bomb.
"Bait" may look like a million bucks, but beneath the surface it's 100-percent pure hokum.
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 20th September 2012
Distributed by: Anchor Bay Entertainment
Production compaines: Bait Productions
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Fresh: 15 Rotten: 17
IMDB: 5.2 / 10
Director: Antonine Fuqua
Starring: Sharni Vinson as Tina, Phoebe Tonkin as Jaimie, Julian McMahon as Doyle, Xavier Samuel as Josh, Cariba Heine as Heather, Alex Russell as Ryan, Lincoln Lewis as Kyle, Alice Parkinson as Naomi