Nothing to Lose

Nothing to Lose, written and directed by Steve Oedekerk, stars Tim
Robbins as Nick, an advertising executive in Los Angeles who is carjacked by
(Martin Lawrence) while in a state of shock over his apparent discovery of his
wife, Ann (Kelly Preston), in bed with his boss, Phil (Michael McKean). Sittiing
at an intersection in his yuppie,
sports-utility vehicle, he turns to the man with the gun, who has sought to
frighten him with menacing ghetto talk
( “Welcome to hell, bitch!) and smiles:
“Boy, did you pick the wrong guy on
the wrong day!” At this point he
doesn’t care if he lives or dies, and
this enables him to turn the tables and take the carjacker hostage.

It is a high-concept movie with which there are many things wrong. Among
them, three stand out. First, the carjacker,
don’t you know, turns out to be a
lovable, decent sort, a stable married man with a loving wife and two adorable
children, who simply can’t get a job
in spite of his qualification in electronic engineering (it is strongly
suggested that the reason is racism) and so is forced into street crime. This
is, to say the least, not your average carjacker. The portrait of him combines
the venerable Hollywood fantasy of the fundamentally decent criminal with a
patronizing stereotype of his formidable
forever whupping him (and anybody else who crosses her) upside the head.

Second, when this interracial odd-couple bonds, as we know they must, and
plan a robbery of Nick’s cuckolding
boss) they are pursued by another interracial pair of comic criminals (John C.
McGinley and Giancarlo Esposito) who might have stepped straight out of the
Alone” movies. And it is another step
into fantasy and cliché which is both unnecessary and diminishing of the
comedy there might otherwise be in the recognition by the would-be criminals of
the kind of world they are about to get mixed up in. Why not take a chance and
make the bad guys really bad and really dangerous?

Third, the ending is too easy, too convenient, too pat and comes like a
deus ex machina to extract our heroes from the very complicated mess they
have got themselves into. Of course we want a happy ending from a comedy and
would not want Nick and
to end up dead in a ditch, as they almost certainly would in real life, but this
particular way of ending, which I forbear to reveal, has the effect of wiping
away everything that has gone before, almost as if it were that ultimate
audience cheat, recently essayed in the
sitcom, of “. . .and then I woke

All this having been said, however, Nothing to Lose is throughout much
of its length very entertaining. Robbins shows an unexpected talent for comedy,
even though he is most often the straight man, and he and Lawrence work very
well together. Perhaps the funniest bit comes when the two rob a hardware store
and quarrel over which approach, loud or quiet, is more scary to the victim. The
old man behind the counter offers to adjudicate and decides for
and the loud approach over Nick and the quiet one.
“You were scary
too,” he offers, not wishing to hurt
Nick’s feelings.

If you can forget for a moment the implausibility of
Nick’s turning to crime, of
T’s turning away from it and the
ending, it is possible to sit back and enjoy the collection of rather superior
gags, both verbal and visual, which are strung together on a frail conceptual
thread without ever depending on it for their effect. Be sure to sit through the
end credits for the final joke.

Discover more from James Bowman

Subscribe to get the latest posts to your email.

Similar Posts