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Dustin Putman

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After The Sunset (2004)
1 Stars

Directed by Brett Ratner
Cast: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Naomie Harris, Don Cheadle, Mykelti Williamson, Obba Babatunde, Lisa Thornhill, Chris Penn, Shaquille O'Neal
2004 – 108 minutes
Rated: Rated PG-13 (for sexual situations, violence, and language).
Reviewed by Dustin Putman, November 6, 2004.

"After the Sunset" signals an unwillingness to grow and a lazy tendency toward more of the same for director Brett Ratner. 1997's "Money Talks" was a humor-heavy heist picture, while 1998's "Rush Hour" and 2001's "Rush Hour 2" remained snugly within the confines of the buddy cop comedy. 2002's surprisingly effective "Red Dragon," a prequel to "The Silence of the Lambs," was apparently but a quick detour, because here Ratner is again, making yet another heist film. Comedy, with a propensity toward a lot of predictable banter and too many stereotypical gay jokes for comfort, once again leads the way, this time unsuccessfully. The only difference is that there isn't much of anything to recommend about "After the Sunset," outside of its deceptively unconventional setup.

With most crime movies of this sort ending with the thieves riding off into the sunset and living happily ever after on the beach, screenwriters Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg pose the question of what happens next, once the final score has been done? The answer found in "After the Sunset" is discouraging, to say the least. Instead of going off in fresh and interesting directions, the film resorts to wearisome cliches and a complete lack of originality.

Following their last heist, master thieves/lovers Max Burdett (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek) travel to an exotic island resort to begin their peaceful retirement. Almost immediately, Max begins to yearn for his old life, not helped by the appearance of tireless FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson), who has managed to track them down and is set on catching them in the act. When Stan alerts Max to the fact that the final diamond they are missing in a series of three is setting sail on a nearby cruise ship, Max starts making plans to pull off the steal while still eluding Stan and native investigator Sophie (Naomie Harris). This time, however, Max will also have to do it without the help of Lola, who makes it clear she is finished with her life of crime and wants to settle down.

Movies like "After the Sunset," free of character depth and not clever enough to wade from formula, make one wonder what filmmakers and actors see in them. The genre can be done right if there is style and charisma involved—see 2001's "Ocean's Eleven" and 2003's "The Italian Job" for recent examples—but even the best of the lot waver the line of disposability. The luscious cinematography by class-act Dante Spinotti (2000's "Wonder Boys") is naturally attractive thanks to the tropical on-location scenery, but there is no story to support it. "After the Sunset" is content to go through the motions and, adding insult to injury, can't even derive any suspense out of its climactic heist. So anticlimactic is Max's steal on the cruise ship that it barely makes an impression at all.

Pierce Brosnan, who has made a career out of this type of role with the James Bond series, 1999's "The Thomas Crown Affair," and 2002's slightly more substantial "The Tailor of Panama," looks understandably bored as the boring, suave Max. As love interest Lola, Salma Hayek (1999's "Wild Wild West") is afforded little to do but nag and plead with Max to stay on the straight and narrow path. Far more frisky and promising are the interactions between Woody Harrelson (2003's "Anger Management") and Naomie Harris (2003's "28 Days Later"), making something out of nothing as unlikely agents Stan and Sophie, who pair up to nab Max and Lola and find themselves uncontrollably attracted to each other. The less said about Don Cheadle (2003's "The United States of Leland"), the better. His turn as an all-business kingpin is virtually a cameo, and a transparent one at that.

With lame jokes abounding, a romance that gives the viewer no reason to care about either party, and a heist so incompetently portrayed that it renders the entire project irrelevant, "After the Sunset" is a long slog through a pretty sea of thankless twaddle. If there was a point to the film being made and, thus, wasting millions of dollars in the process, director Brett Ratner must have kept such reasons to himself. 2004's earlier heist effort, "The Big Bounce," a failure in its own right, suddenly seems not quite as futile. At least that movie was offbeat. "After the Sunset" wallows in banality.
© 2004 by Dustin Putman
Dustin Putman