Mark Reviews Movies

AFTER THE SUNSET

1 ½ Stars (out of 4)

Director: Brett Ratner

Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris, Don Cheadle

MPAA Rating:  (for sexuality, violence and language)

Running Time: 1:37

Release Date: 11/12/04


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Review by Mark Dujsik

A movie like After the Sunset doesn't set out to achieve much, so when it fails to achieve even that little, it's a bit sad.  That is if we cared enough about it to feel sad.  At the helm is director Brett Ratner, exhibiting a dull, workmanlike approach that does very little to help matters.  After the Sunset starts off like a typical heist movie, complete with a pair of thieves who are looking at retirement but with one last potential score on the horizon and an obsessive FBI agent who follows them to paradise to catch them once and for all.  There's nothing terribly wrong or, for that matter, interesting about this setup, but the movie somehow manages to take the wrong steps as it progresses, confusing us only with odd story developments as the plot predictably plows along.  When the movie isn't concerning itself with the robbery, it relies on tired jokes and peculiar relationship comedy and/or melodrama, but the entire time, it doesn't concern itself with being particularly funny, exciting, or entertaining.

Agent Stanley Lloyd (Woody Harrelson) is assigned to protect one of the Napoleon diamonds during its transfer.  He's convinced the diamond is in danger, although no one else is of a similar mind considering the amount of protection.  Stan's fears prove real when Max Burdett (Pierce Brosnan) and his partner in crime Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek and her cleavage (that might sound sexist, but just look at the wardrobe choices and tell me who's being sexist)) hijack the car with Agent Lloyd still in it using a remote.  A brief timeout from the plot is necessary here, as the SUV in question has a remote driving feature which doesn't seem to have any practical purpose except for someone to hack into the system and abuse the function.  Anyway, Max and Lola get away with the diamond and move to the Bahamas, where they plan to live out the rest of their retirement in peace.  The only problem is that Agent Lloyd has arrived on the island and tells Max about the third and final Napoleon diamond, which will be arriving onboard a cruise ship, planting the seed in his mind that perhaps it isn't quite time to retire yet.

Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg wrote the movie with little wit and a whole lot of formula.  Since Max has Lola, Stan gets a local cop named Sophie (Naomie Harris), and the progress of their relationship has a naturalness that rivals acrylamide (if you don't know what it is, look it up, and then think twice before eating certain French fries).  Also thrown in for good measure is a local crime boss named Henry Mooré, who is played by Don Cheadle with the knowledge that his character is a useless plot device resonating in every line.  Why the movie has a throwaway villain is unclear, since the script keeps the proceedings to a tedious harmlessness.  There's no sense of danger accompanying any of this—not in the planning of the heist, not in its execution, and most certainly not in the fates of the characters.  Speaking of the actual theft, it's anticlimactic, expecting us to believe that a fairly lousy diversion would distract a ship's full of security from keeping an eye on the diamond, and we just scratch our heads wondering, "Was that it?"

If that wasn't enough, the movie continues after the robbery for one last "surprise," although Stan mentioning early on that he hates twist endings in movies telegraphs its existence.  The rest is very simple deduction.  I suppose we're not meant to concentrate on the plot, since so much of the movie devotes its time to these characters and their trivial relationship quandaries.  Max and Lola share brief arguments and minor glares as he puts off writing his vows, while Stan and Sophie fight once she discovers he's not officially with the FBI on this assignment.  That revelation certainly doesn't surprise us, but what is unexpected is the way the movie starts to focus on the results of these quarrels, leading to a scene where Max and Stan have to share a bed, which is about as funny as it sounds.  Then there's actually a scene where the men try to talk to their new buddy's significant other to convince her that he's not really such a bad guy, and the pairs are sitting about five feet away from each other.  That scene's also about as funny as it sounds.

All of this is played against the backdrop of cinematographer Dante Spinotti's view of paradise, which turns it into an overly glossy locale—a picture better fitting a place that used to be quaint and beautiful (like a nice, little island in the Bahamas is) but now is corporate and congested (like Cancun is).  But that's what's really going on here anyway, isn't it?  Isn't most everything here an attempt distract us from the overtly conventional elements with lots of pretty sunsets and faces?  After the Sunset is all polish trying to cover up an unsanded surface.

Copyright © 2004 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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