THE AISLE SEAT - by Mike McGranaghan

"AFTER THE SUNSET"

There have been so many heist movies over the years that it would probably be impossible to count them all. After the Sunset is the latest, and it appears content to glide by on old familiar formulas instead of putting in anything new. Much of the film takes place at the opulent Atlantis resort; one has to wonder if this movie was anything other than a convenient excuse for the filmmakers to spend three months there.

Pierce Brosnan has been down the heist road before in 1999ís The Thomas Crown Affair, in which he played an art thief. This time, he is Max Burdett, a jewel thief who specializes in stealing heavily guarded diamonds once belonging to Napoleon. Like all movie thieves, Max has an array of sophisticated, expensive-looking equipment that allows him to bypass security cameras, infrared lasers, and heavy-duty protection cases. Do such things exist in the real world? Probably not, but they do in the movies, and Max somehow gets his hands on them.

After once again toiling FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson), who has long trailed him, Max and girlfriend Lola (Salma Hayek) retire to the Bahamas. One day, Stan shows up unexpectedly. He announces that the third Ė and final Ė Napoleon diamond is being exhibited on a cruise ship conveniently parked just offshore. He plans to make certain that Max doesnít steal it. When Max hears of the diamondís close proximity, he starts to feel the itch again. Lola threatens to leave him if he steals it. Of course, if he doesnít steal it, the movie is over. So there you go.

There is an additional subplot about a local gangster, played by Don Cheadle, who also wants the diamond, but itís little more than a red herring.

After the Sunset is a very easy movie to review. It doesnít work because it doesnít make sense. To successfully make a heist movie, you have to convince the audience that itís at least somewhat plausible. Either that or you must do such a fantastic job of drawing the audience into the heist planning and execution that no one bothers to ask logical questions. (Oceanís Eleven did this masterfully.)

Not only do we not get to see the preparation for the heist, thereís barely even a heist to begin with. Rather than grabbing our attention with a complex plan, Max simply crawls through some air vents, tosses the equivalent of a fishing pole through the ceiling, and yanks the diamond up. Big deal.

One has to wonder about the competence of Stan and his partner, Sophie (Naomie Harris), a local cop. They know Max is a jewel thief. They know heís had his eye on the Napoleon diamond. Yet they do nothing about it. When the diamond is stolen, they fail to arrest him even though heís the prime suspect! These gaps in logic pulled me right out of the story. When characters are so dumb, itís hard to care what happens to them.

The movie tries to make up for its lack of logic by tossing in a handful of broad slapstick moments that are totally out of place. Poor Woody Harrelson gets bonked around time and again. Heís a guy just trying to prevent a robbery, but he must endure a heap of abuse and scorn. For some reason, the screenplay also tosses in some pointless moments designed to create a sexual undercurrent between Max and Stan. On a fishing boat, they spend several minutes rubbing suntan lotion on each other. Later on, they wind up naked in bed together, snuggling. I guess this was supposed to be funny, but it struck me as more homophobic than homoerotic.

The only saving grace in After the Sunset is the cast. Brosnan, Hayek, and Harrelson are three actors who exude charisma. They are very likeable. Moreover, they appear to like each other. I got the feeling that the stars got along well and enjoyed playing their scenes together. That much comes across. Star power can be enough to keep a movie from outright sinking, but then again, you can only tread water for so long. These actors are all smart. We know it. Thereís no way we can believe them as such dumb characters.

Although it may appear that I have given away everything there is in After the Sunset, let me assure you that I have not. Iíve told you only the things you would expect Ė the things inherent to every heist picture. What you might not expect is that the movie tries to tack on a surprise ending; itís one of those pull-the-rug-out-from-under-you moments that have become so popular. Had it worked, this might have been a great film. It could have totally turned the genre on its ear. However, the twist is not earned. The elements that set it up are not handled seriously enough to earn the payoff. Playing it right way would have meant going darker, not lighter. The slapstick and silliness rob the twist of any possible value it may have had. After the Sunset looks great and has good actors, but it generally fails at what it really wants to do.

( out of four)


After the Sunset is rated PG-13 for sexuality, violence and language. The running time is 1 hour and 40 minutes.

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