Stranded at a desert convenience store by his angry girlfriend (Nia Long) who has just discovered he spent their nest egg on a vintage Studebaker, Jamie Foxx is in the wrong place at the wrong time in "Held Up," becoming the most loud-mouthed of a handful of comically diverse hostages when a clumsy virgin hold-up man bungles a robbery at the store.
In its first 10 minutes -- when the movie still looks like it might be about Foxx trying to get his girlfriend back -- the movie shows a pinch of promise. Foxx and Long are both entertaining actors that could carry off a capricious black Bickersons comedy in their sleep.
But any semblance of structure or potential for good laughs exits the movie with Long in the first reel and the balance is spent on shopworn random sketch comedy episodes that the players seem to be making up on the spot while giving each other "just play along!" sideways glances.
The cops show up and Foxx cracks wise. There's a shoot-out and Foxx cracks wise. A pretty, blonde captive (Sarah Paulson) pours bottled water all over herself when the air conditioning goes out and Foxx stares at her with a rubbery, dumbstruck look on his face. If this is somehow funny, please pardon my lack of enthusiasm.
Appointed ad hoc mediator by his captor (Eduardo Yanez), Foxx soon learns to like this guy holding a gun in his back -- who it turns out is just a loyal son, down on his luck and trying to fund a trip home to Mexico to bury his dead father.
When apathetic and passive director Steve Rash ("Son In Law," "Eddie") isn't hanging on Foxx's every breath hoping the comedy will somehow magically begin pouring from some orifice on the actor's body, he's exploiting the locals for antiquated hayseed gags. Every once in a while he'll cut to Long at drowning her sorrows at a bar in the Las Vegas airport, or he'll give 30 seconds of screen time to one of the store's assembled oddballs who really are a little bit funny -- like the sage biker dude (Andrew Jackson) addicted to reading magazines off the rack and inexplicably versed in everything from ammunition to surgery.
But "Held Up" is about $2 worth of funny and 20 minutes worth of plot, stretched and stretched and stretched and stretched to 91 minutes by repetition and transparent filler (the blonde has a cheatin'-heart boyfriend who rides up on his motorcycle for three lines of dialogue then leaves again).
Utterly rudderless and exuding the unmistakable aroma of a pocket-change budget, it's hard not to wonder if Foxx owed somebody a favor when he signed on to make a movie this amateurish. He's not exactly Eddie Murphy, but he must have pick of better scripts than this.
Run time: 89 mins
In Theaters: Friday 12th May 2000
Distributed by: Trimark
Contactmusic.com: 1.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 17%
Fresh: 5 Rotten: 25
IMDB: 5.0 / 10
Director: Steve Rash
Starring: Steve Agee as Homeless Guy, Maria Bamford as Rachel Gonzales, Jon Dore as Ray, Cyrus Farmer as Rocky 1, Suzy Nakamura as Jan, Tig Notaro as Homeless Interpreter, Kaitlin Olson as Rocky 2, Jason Sklar as Batman, Randy Sklar as Robin, Samm Levine as Hector Stiffman, Eddie Pepitone as Martin, Nick Kroll as Douche Bag