After the Sunset
Watching After the Sunset is a bit like viewing someone else's vacation photos. If you turn off your brain and smile politely at the pretty pictures the experience is not altogether unpleasant. But try to formulate a thought and you'll soon grow bored and wish for it to end.
After the Sunset is not, despite all appearances, the first studio movie to be pieced together entirely from clips of other movies. But it sure seems like it. It's that clichéd. Pierce Brosnan plays Max Burdett, the world's foremost jewel thief, who has pulled off one last heist and is trying to go straight. And if you think you've seen that one before just wait, because Woody Harrelson plays his alter ego, F.B.I. agent Stan Lloyd, hot on his trail and dogged by his failure to catch him. So it's your standard good bad guy, bad good guy, bad bad guy (Don Cheadle) and girlfriend who wants him to quit (Salma Hayek) heist movie. Except that would be a disservice to so many heist movies that try to make the crime in question even remotely suspenseful or interesting, and this one couldn't care less. Suffice it to say there is a very big diamond on a cruise ship, and that diamond will be snatched effortlessly by someone in about 30 seconds of screen time. And the rest of the movie? Exactly like the friend's vacation photos: dancing, eating, drinking, fishing, diving, lying around in hammocks, and taking long naps. The filmmakers flirt with the notion of the criminal's paradise turning into a hellish prison of its own with nothing to do and no challenges is sight, but I'll stop right there because I just explored it in more depth than the movie does.
The only way a movie this flimsy gets off the ground at all is with a charming, likeable cast. This group certainly doesn't disappoint, but it is odd to see all four principals playing the exact same roles they've done before in other movies. Brosnan plays the same suave master criminal he did in The Thomas Crown Affair. Harrelson is the rube of ambiguous morality he played in Palmetto. Cheadle plays the same literate but streetwise hood he did in Out of Sight. And Hayek plays the same part she has in projects like Maxim and FHM, gorgeous, scantily clothed and nearly silent. This fuels the feeling of déja vu and again plants the suspicion that the entire movie has been created digitally on someone's iMac. With Steve McQueen starring in Ford commercials, John Wayne having appeared in Coors ads and Laurence Olivier recently reanimated for Sky Captain and
the World of Tomorrow, it isn't really that big of a stretch to wonder if these actors have even met. Naomie Harris, as the local cop, is the only actor who makes an impression.
The puppetmaster of this pastiche is Brett Ratner, who owes his prodigious clout with After the Sunset producers New Line Cinema to the inexplicable success of the Rush Hour franchise. If nothing else it's obvious that he's seen a lot of movies. And at least he's not entirely shameless; Ratner preemptively inserts a DVD copy of Hitchcock's To Catch
a Thief into a scene (Burdett has rented it) just to let us know (wink, wink) that he knows that his underwater scene was inspired by the Master's ballroom dance scene. His pacing is brisk, bordering on abrupt. His tone seems wildly divergent, until you realize that every scene is potentially headed for Rush Hour territory. A slapstick comedy could break out at any moment, and does. I keep waiting for better things from Ratner though--his Nicolas Cage vehicle The Family Man was about as good as a schmaltzy Christmas Scrooge remake could possibly get. Seriously. But he seems very content to direct two men rubbing suntan lotion onto each other's backs, only to later be mistaken for gay lovers in a predictable but lighthearted mix-up. Anyone for Rush Hour 3?
With temperatures around the country dipping towards freezing this weekend, there are certainly worse ways to spend a night at the movies than in the Bahamas with Pierce and Salma. (Say, with Bridget Jones.) After the Sunset is pleasant, but then again, so is a warm bath.