Nothing to Lose (1997)

(On DVD, October 2016) For some reason, Tim Robbins’s persona in my head has solidified as a bit of a semi-presidential intellectual at this point. So it feels surprising to see him ham it up in Nothing to Lose as an ad executive whose life crumbles to dust and is forced to ally himself with a disreputable quasi-criminal. The surprises don’t stop there: Martin Lawrence is almost likable as the motormouth criminal, which doesn’t reflect the unbearableness of his later performances. The rest of the film, though, plays almost on autopilot, with only a few surprises along the way. The first act chronicles how a successful man appears to lose nearly everything, while the second act shows him regrouping and the third taking vengeance against someone who has apparently wronged him. It’s familiar stuff, unimaginably contrived but moved along at a decent clip. Twenty years later, it’s potable but hardly revelatory—the social issues in allying a white executive with a black quasi-criminal film are nearly the same in 2016, which is depressing enough. At least there are a few laughs along the way. The soundtrack nearly feels like a time capsule at this point. While Nothing to Lose isn’t essential viewing, it’s not a complete waste of time either.

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