Fri, Dec 17, 2004 - Page 17 News List

'Fraudulent entertainment' from the former Bond

A comic caper gone wrong best describes this film

By Stephen Holden  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek come unstuck in After the Sunset.


You'd have to search high and low to find screen lovers with less romantic chemistry than Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek in After the Sunset, a jewel-heist frolic so stale it feels like a retread of a retread.

A lot of putatively steamy nuzzling goes on between Brosnan's character, Max Burdett, a master jewel thief who specializes in concocting airtight alibis, and his partner-in-crime, Lola Cirillo (Hayek). Watching these two mash faces is like observing an uncomfortable dental procedure. The mask and latex gloves may be absent, but the actors convey the sense of two professionals gamely enduring an ordeal.

Brosnan has finally reached the age of flab, and the sight of Hayek's extravagant cleavage spilling over his hairy paunch isn't especially pretty. With Brosnan, the line between sly and stony has always been precarious. Here, the most reliable James Bond since Sean Connery seems so buttoned-up and bored he can't even be bothered to raise an eyebrow.

After a slam-bang opening, in which they wrest a priceless diamond from Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson), the FBI agent assigned to Max's case, by trapping him in a limousine driven by remote control, After the Sunset never regains its momentum. The next thing you know, Max and Lola are living unhappily ever after in a tropical paradise, secure with enough ill-gotten wealth to last a lifetime and relying on sex, fine wine and ocean views to keep their lives exciting.

As Max gazes out at the sunset from their perfect beach cottage, he is overcome with that nagging is-that-all-there-is feeling. Despite the movie's drooling vision of cloudless afternoons and golden twilights mellowed by cocktails festooned with little umbrellas, you can sense how deadly it would be to while away your days with nothing to do but massage your indolence.

Film Notes

Directed by: Brett Ratner

Starring: Pierce Brosnan (Max), Salma Hayek (Lola),

Woody Harrelson (Stan), Don Cheadle (Moore)

and Naomie Harris (Sophie).

Running time: 93 minutes

Taiwan Release: Last week

Rescue from ennui arrives in the nick of time when a gigantic cruise ship carrying a bauble billed as the Third Napoleon Diamond slides into port. Stan also appears, assuming that Max and Lola are still in the jewel-thief business and have plans to get it. His arrival only whets Max's appetite to resume his career and turn on his adrenaline spigots, despite his promise to Lola to retire from the business.

Max is further prodded back into action by the local crime boss, Henry Moore (Don Cheadle), a Detroit gangster who has relocated to the Caribbean and enlists him as a co-conspirator. The undeveloped role is a thankless throwaway for Cheadle, who deserves better.

Harrelson, an actor who has never shown he has an adrenaline shortage, lends After the Sunset what little life it stirs up. Like all his screen characters, his Stan behaves like a wild-eyed maniac with a spark plug implanted in his head. When he teams up with Sophie (Naomie Harris), the smoldering local constable, the fire that's missing in Brosnan's and Hayek's dental appointments flares up.

As Max and Stan's tricky cat-and-mouse game does triple somersaults, it becomes obvious that the male stars' roles should have been reversed. Harrelson's revved-up motor is the kind of machine that kicks itself into action and demands crazy challenges, while Brosnan's is a sedate little putt-putt requiring a lot of effort to make it start. The scheme engineered by Max takes place during a midnight scuba-diving expedition. It is as dull as it is elaborate.

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