Jamie Foxx broke out of the New Jack pack with his brawny dramatic work in Any Given Sunday, which makes his halfhearted mugging in the harmless farce Held Up even more of a letdown. Foxx’s Michael Dawson, a Chicago businessman who’s ditched in the Arizona desert by his fiancee, Rae (The Best Man’s Nia Long), finds himself swept up in a crime wave: He’s carjacked, then taken hostage by a band of hapless bandits, including Rodrigo (Eduardo Yanez) and Trina (the underused Roselyn Sanchez, whose angular good looks suggest a Latina Sandra Bullock).
Rodrigo calls Michael ”Beverly Hills Cop,” but Foxx seems more like the preeningly macho Eddie Murphy of Beverly Hills Cop II — too cool to play the fool. For a guy who first gained notice as the world’s ugliest woman on In Living Color, Foxx has grown awfully vain; his physique and his ego both appear pumped up. He smothers his best lines under his breath (”Children of the corn,” he mutters upon meeting the town’s redneck residents) and mumbles a Mike Tyson impression as if forced at gunpoint.
Still, Foxx possesses considerable charm, and he carries Held Up through its frequent dry spells, when one’s mind wanders to ponder these questions: Was director Steve Rash trying to create a Southwestern Northern Exposure by hiring that show’s John Cullum (as a crooning gas-station owner) and Barry Corbin (as the short-fused sheriff)? And did casting Jake Busey as a steely deputy remind Rash how long it’s been since he directed dad Gary’s Oscar-nominated turn in 1978’s The Buddy Holly Story?
In the end, even Foxx is drowned out by the parade of one-note supporting characters, including a hard-drinking airport bartender (Julie Hagerty, miles away from Airplane!). But let’s be grateful. If Held Up had been a vehicle for Rob Schneider (who dropped out four days into filming), the audience would’ve really felt like hostages. C-