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Nothing to Lose
  [rating: 3½ of 4 stars]movie review by Gary Johnson

Life has just hit rock bottom for advertising executive Nick Beam (Tim Robbins). After returning home unexpectedly, he sees his wife in bed with his boss. He immediately goes into shock, stumbles out of the house and behind the wheel of his car. While he sits at a traffic light, staring ahead in a near catatonic state, Nick finds a gun pointed at his head. The car jacker (Martin Lawrence) jumps in the car and orders Nick out. But Nick is past the point of caring. He locks the doors and shoves the accelerator to the floor. "You're messin' with the wrong guy on the wrong day."

Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence
Nothing to Lose.
(©1997 Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.)

That is just the set up for this absolutely hilarious and inventive comedy from director/writer Steven Oedekerk. I have to admit I kept expecting this movie to run out of steam: for how long can Robbins and Lawrence stay together before it all becomes ludicrous? But miraculously, thanks to some inventive situations supplied by Oedekerk, the movie never bogs down--unlike so many comedies nowadays (e.g. Romy and Michele and Addicted to Love, to name just two). Oedekerk gives us elaborately planned and executed jokes that nearly always seem spontaneous and surprising. One joke in particular is set up with an elaborate chain of mishaps that culminates in one of the funniest one liners I've ever heard.

But the main reason this movie works is the teamwork of Robbins and Lawrence: they work great together. Robbin's exudes an uptight confidence that masks his jittery, neurotic nature, and. Lawrence gives off a street-smart belligerence that masks his intelligence. It's a perfect combination of personalities.

Tim Robbins and Martin Lawrence
Nothing to Lose.
(©1997 Touchstone Pictures. All rights reserved.)

The movie posters make the most of the contrast in the lead characters by showing Robbins towering over Lawrence. Like all the great comedy teams (Laurel and Hardy, Abbott and Costello, Martin and Lewis), the contrast in personalities fuels the comedy. Robbins plays a sharp-witted, well-dressed advertising executive, while Lawrence plays an educated but unemployed man who is pushed to the edge

However, the movie isn't all Robbins and Lawrence. Many of the best lines or sight gags are supplied by the supporting performers. We get Michael McKean mooning over his collection of native African artwork (all of which appear to be prodigiously equipped, if you know what I mean). Irma P. Hall is viciously funny as Lawrence's mom; she slaps her son silly--and even gives Robbins a slap: "That's because you were with him." And director Oedekerk saves the best for himself: a cocky security guard who spins his flashlight like he's a gunslinger. (And by all means, do not miss his scene with the laser beams!)

The story itself could easily have veered into sentimental (and phony) territory, but Oedekerk keeps pulling surprises. He has a great feeling for off-beat dialog, such as the scene where Robbins and Lawrence rob a store: Robbins does his best to scare the clerk and then Lawrence does his best, and then they insist the clerk tell them who was scarier.

Along with Men in Black, Nothing to Lose is the best comedy of the summer. And in fact, it's one of the best comedies to come along in a long, long while. Be sure to keep your eyes on Oedekerk; he's a major talent.

Go to the Nothing to Lose Web site

Go to the Touchstone Pictures Web site

A Touchstone Pictures Presentation


T. PaulMartin Lawrence
Nick BeamTim Robbins
Davis "Rig" LanlowJohn C. McGinley
Charlie DuntGiancarlo Esposito
AnnKelly Preston
Phillip BarrowMichael McKean
DanielleRebecca Gayheart
DeloresSusn Barnes
BerthaIrma P. Hall
LisaSamaria Graham
JoeyMarcus Paulk
TonyaPenny Bae Bridges
Security Guard BaxterSteve Oedekerk
Written and Directed bySteve Oedekerk
Produced byMartin Bregman
Dan Jinks
Director of PhotographyDonald E. Thorin
Production DesignerMaria Caso
Costume DesignerElsa Zamparelli
EditorMalcolm Campbell
Music byRobert Folk
Executive ProducersLouis A. Stroller
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