'Nothing to Lose:' a shrine to mediocrity
July 22, 1997
Web posted at: 3:39 p.m. EDT (1939 GMT)
From Reviewer Paul Tatara
(CNN) -- Today's magic word is "mediocrity." This, my
friends, is a word that sends shivers down my young movie
reviewer spine. I have a problem with mediocrity. It's easy
enough to write about a very good film, because, well,
because it's a very good film. That only makes sense. It's
also easy to write about lousy films, because belligerence
makes me talkative. But mediocrity is another story
altogether. Remember the last time you saw a so-so movie,
and somebody asked you how it was? You said, "Ah, you know.
It was okay." Well, I can't do that! I have to write
Which brings us to "Nothing to Lose," starring Tim Robbins
and Martin Lawrence. Lawrence plays a black guy named T.
Paul, which is sort of like me, but in reverse. That's all I
really feel moved to say, but I've already explained the
situation. There really is no good reason for this movie to
exist, which isn't to say that it's absolutely awful. Not at
all. Lawrence is pretty funny doing his mock macho routine,
and Tim Robbins is just like Tim Robbins always is. But
surely nobody hyperventilated when they read this script.
And, just as surely, nobody hyperventilated when watching the
daily footage. This movie is a big glass of room temperature
water. Out of a faucet. You know that song, "You're the
top/You're the Tower of Pisa?" Well, if it had been
referring to "Nothing to Lose," it would have gone "You're
the middle/You're the nondescript office building down the
street/Yeah, that one, right there."
Robbins plays an ad executive (there are only two jobs in the
movies -- ad executive and lawyer) who comes home from work
early one day and mistakenly thinks he sees his wife (Kelly
Preston) having sex with his boss (Michael McKean). He then
gets in his car and drives away in a daze, makes a wrong
turn, and ends up in a part of town WHERE THEY PLAY RAP
MUSIC. This is highly offensive shorthand for a place where
economically deprived minorities live. Lawrence hops into
Robbins' vehicle while he's at a light, and holds a gun to
Robbins' head, looking for money. Robbins will have none of
this in his condition, so he quite believably throws his
wallet out the window and puts the pedal to the metal. He
careens through Los Angeles (I have never, ever laughed at a
car chase that wasn't staged 70 years ago in a silent movie)
and winds up hauling his would-be victimizer into the middle
of the desert. Then they start saying funny things, start
kinda likin' each other, and wind up robbing assorted gas
stations and quickie marts together.
Makes sense to me.
Anyway, this is now a road movie, and I think there isn't a
cheaper form of screenplay that can be written than a road
movie. Uninventive directors usually turn these kinds of
stories into a series of vignettes, people driving from town
to town and doing "stuff." Most of the "stuff" in this one
concerns Robbins and Lawrence either shooting at somebody, or
getting shot at by Giancarlo Esposito and John C.
McGinley. McGinley, just like he does in every other movie
he's ever been in, continually wears a sneering expression
that seems to indicate he smells poop. It may very well have
been "Batman & Robin," which was playing in the adjacent
Director Steve Oedekerk (who also directed "Ace Ventura II:
When Nature Calls," and I should probably leave it at that),
telegraphs gags like Samuel Morse on a three-day drunk.
Here's an example: Robbins is pumping gas into the car when
the tank overflows and gets all over his shoes. About 10
minutes later, they're driving down the road and Lawrence
mentions that he smells gas. Robbins says it's all over his
shoes. Then, Robbins gets a spider in his hair (don't ask),
pulls to the side of the road, gets out, and steps on a book
of matches. The matches, amazingly enough, strike the
asphalt at just the right angle, and ... you'll never guess.
They set Robbins' shoes on fire! They should have sent out
engraved invitations to this joke. If they had, I would have
been busy that weekend.
The two also, while planning to rob Robbins' boss as a
revenge tactic, steal flashlights that have AM/FM radios
attached to them. I wonder if one of the radios will start
playing while they're in the middle of the robbery.
Everything moves along exactly like you expect it to; there
are chuckles, but no guffaws. Everything turns out for the
best in the end. Also as you expected. Preston and Robbins
kiss. Lawrence gets a job, so he doesn't have to rob people
anymore. I heard some snoring.
"Nothing to Lose" is about as nondescript as its title, which
sounds like a sitcom that everybody but you watches. There
is a quick shot of two people coupling (in the Biblical
sense; they're not linking up trains), and quite a bit of
sometimes amusing profanity. Rated R. 97 minutes.
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