After a successful last score, a master thief retires to an island paradise. His lifelong nemesis, a crafty FBI agent, washes ashore to ensure he's making good on his promise. The pair soon enters into a new game of cat-and-mouse. Written by
Opening with a scene at a professional basketball game, we quickly find, as do observing FBI agents, that we've been had. The die is cast; 'After the Sunset' will provide a series of feints and jabs, dodges and weavings that will prove to be less edifying than some great jewel heist films of the past. But we still are treated to enough satisfying moments to say this is a pretty good film.
Max Burdett (Pierce Brosnan) and his girlfriend Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek) are in retirement, having stepped down from the ranks of the international jewel thief set, and are enjoying the good life in the Bahamas. Woody Harrelson (as FBI agent Stan Lloyd) has appeared on the scene; he is less sure they have retired and with the arrival in port of a ship-borne display of jewels (featuring 'The Third Napoleon Diamond' in the collection) has them under close watch.
Agent Lloyd has always been thwarted in capturing Max and Lola; this is personal. How the characters play against each other (various local officials become interested and ultimately involved as well) as the clock ticks (the ship is due to leave soon) elevates our interest. Don Cheadle (local crime boss Kingpin) is a key figure among the Bahamians with influence on the outcome.
Jewel heist in paradise. That might be a working title for a script which would become the film 'After the Sunset'. Writer Paul Zbyszewski (previous experience on TV's 'The Weakest Link') has fashioned a reasonably believable story line (see Roger Ebert for discussion of plot holes - http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20041111/REVIEWS/41006006/1023) involving electro-technical moments, great use of locations, wry humor (Woody Harrelson does go over the top in some mugging moments, but overall is quite engaging), and certainly deserves another opportunity to develop a script.
A killer cast of capable actors is expected to deliver and does. No doubt the script could have been terser, the lines more memorable or the plot more believable. We don't get all of the sheer class of the recent 'Ocean's Eleven', the raw energy of 'The Italian Job' or the gut laughs of 'Team America: World Police'. But Salma Hayek works her minimal exposure maximally (her physical charms alone are arresting), Brosnan is an interesting study in this a more laid back role than we are accustomed to seeing from him and Don Cheadle proves again he can do anything, including portray what for all intents is a gangster.
In an interview on the set of the film in January, director Brett Ratner notes about how he saw this as more a 'character-driven movie' and not just a 'big action heist'. He further notes that in taking on the task of balancing all the elements comedy, action/adventure, drama - 'It's more of a challenge for me. Can I do a movie like this and get the tone right? If it's too broad, you don't care about the characters. If it's too serious, it's just a dramatic film and you then don't care.' (http://www.joblo.com/index.php?id=3457)
'After The Sunset' is one of those films you just want to work and because you do redemption is sought in what probably are the small things. This jewel heist caper is a little above the cut of customary plex fare, and the nearly full theater of attentive viewers speaks to the dearth of just plain old decent films at the moment. We were not disappointed, and maybe agree the director CAN do a film like this.
Rating: 2- ¾ stars.
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