New Line // 2004 // 98 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // April 8th, 2005
Brett Ratner, the kinetic director of the Rush Hour sequels and the Hannibal Lecter prequel Red Dragon, returns with After the Sunset, a diamond heist movie set in the Bahamas starring lots of pretty people. But is the real theft ninety minutes of your life?
Max Burdett (Pierce Brosnan, Die Another Day) is a master thief, and good-looking to boot. Suave, rich, and seemingly invulnerable to the pursuit of authorities, Max, along with his partner and girlfriend Lola (Salma Hayek, Once Upon a Time in Mexico), has boosted two of the fabled Napoleon Diamonds, mammoth gems worth millions of dollars. Max's FBI archenemy is the hapless Agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson, Kingpin), always two steps behind the thief's plans.
The film opens with Lloyd clutching a briefcase containing one of the diamonds, intent on preventing Max and Lola from purloining it. Of course, that won't do, so Lloyd soon finds himself locked in his own car, driven to an underground garage, gassed, and relieved of his cargo.
Fast-forward to the Bahamas, where Max and Lola have retired, built a fabulous beach house, and set about engaging in rampant beach sex. Away from the tension of high-stakes thievery, the two can finally relax and make plans for their upcoming life together. But all that goes out the window when Lloyd shows up unexpectedly. He tells Max of an approaching cruise liner carrying the last Napoleon Diamond -- "It's the only one you haven't stolen," he says -- and practically dares him to give it a try.
Lola, intent on embarking on a normal life, urges Max to keep away from Lloyd and push all temptation to steal the diamond out of his mind. Despite his curiosity, Max relents -- until Henri Moore (Don Cheadle, Ocean's 11), the biggest gangster on the island, forces him to get involved. Max is caught in the middle of a slew of opposing forces: Lola's pleas, Lloyd's desire to finally beat him, Moore's threats, and his own instincts.
After the Sunset is an incoherent mess, populated by unlikable characters and nonsensical plot twists. An amalgam of multiple film genres, After the Sunset dooms itself by simultaneously trying to be too many things and sucking on all the attempts.
Let's take a closer look at the different hats After the Sunset attempts to wear:
As a heist movie:
No doubt influenced by the onslaught of recent Hollywood heist movies (Ocean's 11, Ocean's 12, The Italian Job, etc.), After the Sunset concerns itself with the theft of a big-ass diamond. Fine, but the movie lacks the characteristics necessary for a cool heist flick. First, the actual theft is anticlimactic and disappointing. I kept expecting some cool little plan, but the setup was pretty lame, not to mention highly improbable; seriously, if you're going to stretch the audience's suspension of disbelief, why not offer an entertaining payoff? Second is the twist. Everyone knows that heist movies must have some big twist or reveal at the end, and, yes, there's something like that here, but the denouement is both predictable and unsatisfying. Plus, think about it for a while, and under the force of a few brain cells' worth of logic, the construct crumbles.
As a romance:
Salma Hayek is a goddess. No contentions here. And you don't get smoother than Pierce Brosnan. However, we're supposed to believe that Max and Lola are ludicrously smitten with each other, though the only evidence of this is the endless makeout scenes. I never felt that these two were actually in love with each other, just together because, well, Max looks like Pierce Brosnan and Lola looks like Salma Hayek.
As a buddy movie:
If any portion of the film showed promise, it was this one. The laughs -- while few and far between -- surfaced more often in the scenes with Max and Lloyd than any other. Yes, the shark scene is over-the-top and a rip-off from Lethal Weapon 4, and the sleeping-together-and-waking-up-to-some-FBI-agents-who-think-they're-gay schtick is cheap and obvious, but out of all the comedy pieces, these were the most amusing. What does that say? The tenuous rivalry-turned-friendship between Max and Lloyd bordered on the interesting, but nothing ever came of it. Ratner instead kept his focus on Max and Lola's relationship, a snoozer.
As a "cool" ensemble piece:
This is definitely a nifty lineup of actors. But, alas, what we have here is a textbook example of the whole not being greater than the sum of its parts. Brosnan is great and all, but it seems like he's always playing the invulnerable character. Whether it's in The Thomas Crown Affair or the Bond movies, he's a guy who always seems to win, and there's never any question about it. It's the same in this film, and the result is a guy that I was rooting for to lose. Plus, I think I'm getting fed up with the whole "thieves are exotic and cool" theme in films.
Woody Harrelson just goes way over the top with his FBI agent. He's goofy! He's zany! He's horny! And thanks to the gratuitous cleavage and bikini shots, Salma Hayek morphed into little more than eye candy. The biggest waste in all of this is Don Cheadle. The guy is in only a handful of scenes, exists solely as the underwritten heavy, and, sadly, becomes just another cog in an otherwise broken machine.
My experience with After the Sunset falls somewhere between "Pulled Hamstring" and "Prolonged Chest Cold" on the entertainment meter. I'm all for fun popcorn-movie escapism, but this film ain't it.
Warner Bros. still manages to treat even its lesser properties with quite a bit of dignity on DVD. Technically, the sound and video are strong. The anamorphic 2.35:1 transfer captures the lush tropical colors brilliantly, and the 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is robust, effectively using the discrete surround channels. A nice batch of extras awaits as well. A boatload of deleted scenes, including an alternate ending, point toward the hodge-podge feeling of the movie's narrative. An odd but interesting interview with an actual jewel thief is an unorthodox addition, and a visual effects comparison actually proved to be quite intriguing. In addition, Ratner gives a decent commentary track.
The high point is "Before, During, and After the Sunset," a one-hour-plus documentary on the making of the movie, which is fun and revealing. From preproduction on, the feature divulges much of what went down on set, including Ratner's endless energy (he does seem like a cool guy to hang out with), logistical challenges, and cast and crew horseplay, showing me that they had a lot more fun making the film than I had watching it.
Whatever shortcomings After the Sunset sports -- and there are many of them -- photography is not one of them. The tropical vistas are rich and stunning (though digitally modified in some instances), and will soak your television in sun. Wear some SPF 30 to watch it.
This movie wants to be a breezy, fun adventure with almost no heavy lifting, but you kind of need the "fun" part for that to work. Brett Ratner's caper flick leaves much to be desired in terms of coherence, characterization, and just general amusement. Too bad.
A clump of cow manure packaged in a nice, shiny wrapper, the accused is to be beached on a desert island.
Review content copyright © 2005 David Johnson; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: New Line
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
* Director Commentary
* Making-of Documentary
* Deleted Scenes
* Blooper Reel
* "Interview with a Jewel Thief"
* Visual Effects Comparison
* Official Site