Baryshnikov looks lost in vapid 'Company Business'

March 24, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

Talk about bad "Company"!

"Company Business," a comedy-thriller in the old East-West tradition, probably wouldn't have been any good even if the Cold War hadn't dried up and blown away, but if it had stuck around a year or so, this turkey would still gobble.

It's one of those espionage things, full of intricate plot complications about double agents and controls and penetrations, in which, as per usual, the old order of butt-kicking cowboy is celebrated over the new order of computer whiz. But the movie is so dense and charmless, it just lies there.

Gene Hackman plays the cowboy-type, pulled from retirement to run a little errand: He's to escort captured Russky spy Mikhail Baryshnikov back to Germany and then supervise his transfer to the KGB in exchange for a famous American captive, a Francis Gary Powers type, and if you don't know who Francis Gary Powers was, you shouldn't be reading this review anyway.

Of course, nothing is what it seems, the transfer blows up in their faces, and Hackman and Baryshnikov end up on the run across Europe, being pursued by thugs from each side. Thelma and Louise these two boys are not. If the movie had a prayer of survival, it depended upon a certain charm to the buddy-thing, and if it looked good on paper, it sure stinks on film.

Hackman barely acts. It's the same old Gene, avuncular, ironic, slightly slier than he lets on, that we've seen in a hundred better movies. Baryshnikov looks hopelessly lost amid the complexities the script, and the movie never lets his vitality and charisma shine. It's a total waste.

'Company Business'

Starring Gene Hackman and Mikhail Baryshnikov.

Directed by Nicholas Meyer.

Released by MGM.

Rated PG-13.


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