After the Sunset

(2004) ** Pg-13
100 min. New Line Cinema. Director: Brett Ratner. Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle, Naomie Harris.

Let's play Guess the Career Move...what got the talent behind Brett Ratner's After the Sunset to sign on the dotted line? Since losing the gig of restarting the Superman series at Warner Brothers (and he's not alone in that distinction), Ratner seems to have told his agent to pull the best scripts from his pile and see what could get an easy greenlight. After all, a man has to feel valuable.

As the lame duck of the James Bond series, Brosnan seems relegated to his pigeonhole playing suave spies and thieves (his latest gig? a sequel to The Thomas Crown Affair), though he's proven by now that he's capable of more. As for Woody Harrelson, beggars can't be choosers (he, too, deserves better). Poor Salma Hayek is pathetically overqualified for a gig giving her little to do but slither her bodacious body around in scant outfits and tell Brosnan, "You're a great thief, but not a great man."

There, in a nutshell, is the apparent pith of After the Sunset. Can a great thief walk away from the heist life, or does he just have to go for--say it with me now--One Last Big Score? Brosnan's jewel thief Max Burdett made mincemeat of FBI agent Stan "I'm a punchline" Lloyd by stealing from Lloyd's watchful care one of a set of Napoleonic diamonds. Relocated to the Caribbean, Max and partner-in-crime Lola settle into uncomfortable retirement. Bored with lobster and Ugly American tourists, Max seems relieved when Stan bursts back into his life claiming to have his number. The third Napoleon diamond is--for a limited time only--on display on a nearby ship. Max, Stan inuits, can only be here to steal it: retirement, reschmirement. In another case of misapplied talent, Don Cheadle sidles in and out of the picture as a small-time crime lord.

As anyone who bothers to fritter their way through After the Sunset will plainly see, the plotting of this otherwise workmanlike comedy-adventure is as fundamentally ridiculous as it is predictable and lacking in tension. The stars and Ratner's raised-by-the-'80s action sensibility buoy the proceedings up to a point, but any interest slackens considerably in the flaccid midsection as the story becomes repetitive and unfocused. In an effort to block out the godawful Casablanca-lite ending, I turned my thoughts back to lesser ineptitudes, like the attempt to mask the blatant Salma Hayek sex show by demonstrating that her character can build a deck. This is what passes for a date movie to readers of FHM.

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