Laurence Fishburne is so cool and confident as rogue CIA man Nelson Crowe he looks born to the game. Wearing a cagey smile and exuding a fierceness beneath his calm, he runs through a battery of tests under the watchful eyes of Ellen Barkin (whose crooked grin reveals she's interested in more than simply his professional abilities) and Frank Langella. Barkin and Langella run "The Toolshed," a private-sector version of the CIA that provides security, investigations, and covert work such as blackmail and espionage, and they've got plans for Fishburne. Little do they know that he's not as rogue as they think. As Barkin plots her palace coup with Fishburne as her strong-arm partner, CIA agent Michael Murphy (at his most sleazy and manipulative in an unbilled role) plans his own takeover. Fishburne's role recalls Deep Cover, another film where the cop finds himself so in tune with his undercover part that he becomes as ruthless as the people he's investigating. Bad Company is rarely as compelling as Deep Cover, but its cleverly twisting plot (by veteran mystery scribe Ross Thomas) and roll call of corruption makes for an entertainingly cynical thriller. Director Damian Harris proves an adept stylist with his low-key direction and sleekly handsome look, but Fishburne makes the film with quiet menace and cold-blooded efficiency oozing from under his calculated reserve. --Sean Axmaker
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