After the Sunset

Nov 17, 2004 at 12:00 am

Early on in this new heist flick, our criminal mastermind heroes decide to rent the 1955 Hitchcock classic To Catch a Thief. Perhaps they should’ve taken notes. After the Sunset is so devoid of inspiration, so unworthy of comparison to other, better caper movies, that a lame old episode of Hart to Hart would have been more appropriate viewing material.

Opening with a preposterous-but-entertaining diamond heist that plays like a leftover from last year’s remake of The Italian Job, the film gets progressively blander. After the spirited intro, lusty, high-class jewel-snatchers Max (an impossibly tan Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek) retire from the biz, retreating to an island in the Bahamas to practice tennis, engage in some PG-13 nookie, and live the life of a Corona ad. Enter Stan (Woody Harrelson), a hapless FBI agent who’s still bitter after being made the fool in the couple’s most recent con. He’s convinced that Max won’t be able to resist thieving another diamond that’s on display in a nearby cruise ship, and with some added prodding from a greedy crime boss (Don Cheadle, stuck in the kind of role he outgrew years ago), it seems Max just might betray Lola’s wishes and come out of retirement.

No surprises here; everything is exactly as it seems, right down to the would-be crafty twist at the end. The A-list cast struggles gamely with a B-movie script by Paul Zybszewski and Craig Rosenberg, but nothing short of an Elmore Leonard rewrite could erase the film’s tepid cat-and-mouse pursuit scenes, the attempts at sexy repartee or the tone-deaf, 20-years-out-of-date gay jokes. (Where’s the Anti-Defamation League when you need it?)

Director Brett Ratner knows his way around junk-food cinema — 1998’s gleefully entertaining Rush Hour remains his career high-point — but he wouldn’t know snappy banter if it bit him on the ass. Speaking of which, in lieu of brains, Ratner is more than happy to provide plenty of lingering butt shots, most of them featuring Hayek. She’s apparently bought into the Halle Berry-Charlize Theron “don’t let them forget you’re a hottie” rule: All Best Actress nominees must show some skin following their Oscar appearances. Diane Keaton, this means you.

Despite the physical attributes on display, most viewers won’t be fooled into thinking this film is any better than its generic title and straight-to-Cinemax poster art.

Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].