November 12, 2004

After the Sunset

Directed by Brett Ratner Starring Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson

Reviewed by Martin Tsai

With glamorous lawbreaking protagonists and exotic Caribbean locales, After the Sunset outwardly aspires to be one of those sexy and amusing high-concept thrillers that appeal to an upscale adult audience. But in spite of slick execution by its capable cast and crew, the film's unimaginative plans are too easy for viewers to foil. Even its obligatory gotcha plot twists are transparent enough for sharp viewers to foresee long before they actually take place.

Shifting into The Thomas Crown Affair gear, a grizzly Pierce Brosnan stars as notorious diamond thief Max Brudett. (Wasn't Nic Cage available? Oh, wait! He must have been too busy stealing National Treasure.) Max and crime-partner Lola (Salma Hayek) have retired to a Bahamian island to squander the spoils of their unlawful exploits. Diamonds are forever, and old habits die hard. Six months later, they have already regressed to pocket picking for thrills. FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson) shows up just in time to entice these longtime foes of his with tempting bait, in the form of a rare diamond on display aboard a cruise ship set to arrive at the local port. Crime kingpin Henry Moore (Don Cheadle) soon coerces Max's assistance and then screws him over a promised share. But as you've probably already guessed, Max has hatched a separate plan.

The crook-coming-out-of-retirement-for-one-last-score setup is obviously not novel, as it has manifested itself in such recent films as Gone in 60 Seconds and The Good Thief. In a foolish attempt at ingenuity, After the Sunset pays To Catch a Thief a gauche homage that unwittingly exposes its own inferiority. The film's other sycophantic references - such as cameos by Edward Norton and the entire L.A. Lakers - are just as meaningless.

Although the film seems very eager to be a crowd pleaser, some of its questionable choices have missed its target grown-up audience. The momentary sight of a topless Hayek probably gratifies the likes of Harry Knowles, but the klutzily homoerotic humour of two men rubbing sun-block lotion onto each other is just totally pathetic. Suspension of disbelief is generally requisite for a popcorn flick like this, but who in his or her right mind will believe Hayek has built an entire deck alone while sporting only a bikini and a pair of goggles? Some may revel in the film's ridiculousness, but the others will likely detect an insult to their intelligence.

Reprinted from WestEnder. © Copyright 2004 Martin Tsai. All rights reserved.