Judge David Johnson was surprised to find this movie wasn't the sequel to Before Sunset.
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?
Facts of the Case
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:
As a romance:
As a buddy movie:
As a "cool" ensemble piece:
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.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
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.
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