- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

“After the Sunset” aspires to be a blithe and deceptive caper comedy about glamorous jewel thieves lured out of picturesque retirement in the Bahamas by a pesky nemesis. At one point, a DVD copy of Alfred Hitchcock’s “To Catch a Thief” is conspicuously displayed. Although “After the Sunset” compares poorly to such recent remakes in the same genre as “Ocean’s Eleven” and “The Italian Job,” it’s easy to believe that the Hitchcock classic was a fond, unmatchable influence.

The new film is predicated on the idea that characters similar to Cary Grant’s elusive cat burglar, John Robie, and Grace Kelly’s Francie Stevens, the gorgeous heiress attracted by his mystique, might find it difficult to go completely straight. The chosen descendants, Pierce Brosnan and Salma Hayek, are reliably photogenic but wedded to a plot that belabors defective feints and double-crosses.

The two are already criminal consorts as the movie begins, with a quaint touch of misdirection, at a Los Angeles Lakers game. Mr. Brosnan’s mastermind, Max, demonstrates his elusiveness by vacating the Staples Center while under surveillance. He strolls toward the new concert hall designed by Frank Gehry in order to give us another scenic prospect of downtown Los Angeles while springing an elaborate trap on the nemesis, Woody Harrelson as an overmatched and ultimately disgraceful FBI agent called Stanley.

As Max’s consort and chief accomplice, Lola, Miss Hayek is cutely disguised while collaborating on the introductory heist, which supposedly nets rare diamonds in the vulnerable custody of Mr. Harrelson. This overcalculated gambit anticipates the remainder of the story, set in Nassau, where Max and Lola share a luxurious beachfront hideaway and Stanley turns up acting suspiciously smug, daring Max to pinch a rock called the Napoleon diamond, scheduled for brief public exhibition on a gigantic cruise ship in port for a maiden voyage.

The filmmakers have their sources confused a good deal of the time. Max’s relation to Stanley echoes the Road Runner’s to Wile E. Coyote. There’s no equivalent for the indispensable courtship and foreplay episodes of “To Catch a Thief,” which generated far more cinematic suspense and amusement while observing Miss Kelly seduce Mr. Grant than pretending to document burglaries in fashionable Riviera settings.

A masked phantom, presumably Max or his stunt double, is shown performing prodigiously unlikely feats of infiltration and escape in and around the cruise ship. He’s alleged to be a master of the astonishing alibi, but the one concocted for the final caper is beyond the realm of even miraculous probability.

The visible Mr. Brosnan is notable mainly for displaying more chest hair than his peers seem to boast. Miss Hayek rivals ships, resorts, beachscapes and sunsets as a scenic marvel. She’s in such hilariously scrumptious shape that it’s difficult to begrudge the gawking images that are fixated on her bustline and bottom.

The diverting aspects of “After the Sunset” have little or nothing to do with following a mystery scenario. To the extent that it attempts to be clever, the movie is merely expedient and disillusioning. To the extent that it luxuriates in the presence of attractive places and co-stars, it muddles through.

**

TITLE: “After the Sunset”

RATING: PG-13: Fleeting violence and profanity; occasional sexual candor and vulgarity

CREDITS: Directed by Brett Ratner. Screenplay by Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg. Cinematography by Dante Spinotti. Production design by Geoffrey Kirkland. Costume design by Rita Ryack. Music by Lalo Schifrin.

RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes

WEB SITE: www.afterthesunset.com

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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