“What’s the Worst That Could Happen?”
Martin Lawrence is a clever thief named Kevin Caffery who frequents auctions to find out what’s worth stealing. At an art auction, he meets Amber Belhaven (Carmen Ejogo) who is in tears because she has to sell the painting her father left her because she needs money for a hotel bill. The painting is described as a fine example of the Hudson River School, goes for $3,000 but to many it is worth much more than that. Max Fairbanks (Danny DeVito) is a man who has several lovers including his wife (Nora Dunn), his secretary (Gleanne Headly) and Miss September.
Kevin has a criminal sidekick named Berger (John Leguizamo) and a getaway driver (Bernie Mac) and he is friends with a flamboyant a Boston cop (William Fichtner). The plot is about Kevin’s attempt to rob Max’s luxurious shore estate, which is supposed to be empty but in fact contains Max and Miss September. After the cops are called, Max steals a ring given him by Amber Belhaven. The rest of the movie as about Kevin’s determination to get it back, intercut with Max’s troubles with judges, lawyers and accountants.
What could have been quiet jokes becomes sloppy and slapstick and the film does not have a strong narrative that will go from beginning to end. A comedy needs a strong narrative engine to pull the plot through to the end. There are simply too many actors and too poor a script to carry this through.
In a movie about a caper like this one, it’s the actors who matter. Lawrence did not make it as a star and he just is not funny here. DeVito is a great talker but he is once again playing the same old, same old.
The cast is very good and there are some funny moments but by and large, I just could not get into the movie. The underlying premise is that the only difference between the businessman, the politician, the lawyer, and the man who steals is that at least the professional thief is honest about what he does. There is something unsettling about the underlying assumptions here, especially those about the smug self-righteousness of the thieves.