Some sharp comedic work from odd couple Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence helps “Nothing to Lose” rise above its routine caper trappings, but it’s not enough to guarantee writer-director Steve Oedekerk (“Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls”) a follow-up hit.
Despite a promising start, the film limps to the finish line, leaving untold numbers of missed comic opportunities in its wake despite the game efforts of its leads.
Robbins, apparently relishing the opportunity to try some physical comedy on for size after remaining behind the camera for “Dead Man Walking,” is a treat as Nick Beam, an ad exec who flips out after allegedly finding his wife (Kelly Preston) in bed with his smug boss (Michael McKean).
Driving off in a dazed state of confusion and hurt, Nick receives another little surprise when a fast-talking carjacker called T. (Martin Lawrence) suddenly appears in his front seat with a gun pointed in his face.
Feeling like a man pushed to the brink with nothing to lose, Nick decides to turn his would-be mugger into a hostage, chucking his wallet out the window and speeding off into the wide-open spaces.
As is a given in these kinds of movies, the two men from seemingly different sides of the tracks ultimately form an unlikely bond, driven by a scheme that will get back at Beam’s boss while providing T. with an answer to his financial woes.
Lawrence, who has demonstrated some impressive comic chops in “Bad Boys” and on the Fox sitcom that bears his first name, makes a fine flustered foil for Robbins’ on-the-edge guy. The two play off each other nicely.
In a limited role, Preston is once again cast as the heartbreaker (see also “Addicted to Love,” “Jerry Maguire”), while John C. McGinley and Giancarlo Esposito play it broadly as thugs on the tail of Robbins and Lawrence.
Despite the energetic performances, Oedekerk’s screenplay still feels stale, particularly with a flatly stereotypical portrayal of black-white race relations that seems at least a decade out of touch.
Oedekerk, incidentally, is a former sketch writer for “In Living Color.”
“Nothing to Lose” has a lot going for it on the music end, packing in a jukebox’s worth of tunes highlighted by a new Coolio track, “C U When You Get There,” that manages to juxtapose samples of Pachelbel’s “Canon” over hip-hop beats (!).
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: “Nothing to Lose” Location: Lincoln Heights, Showboat Credits: Directed by Stebe Oedekerk, starring Tim Robbins, Martin Lawrence, Kelly Preston, Michael McKean Running time: 1:37 Rating: R