by Mark Savlov

The man behind the Rush Hour franchise proves that dropping sly nods in Alfred Hitchcock's direction does not necessarily a fine caper make. While a couple of references to the master's 1955 classic To Catch a Thief crop up in this inane-yet-not-unpleasant bit of balderdash, the script, from Paul Zbyszewski (whose only previous credit, fittingly, is on the television program The Weakest Link), is high-grade hokum, a cookie-cutter mishmash of Pierce Brosnan's minor-league Cary Grantisms and plenty of shots of Salma Hayek's bosom and backside. It's as if the essence of the heist genre had been filtered through the mindset of Maxim magazine, complete with lingering looks at the various actresses lounging around in thongs and sarongs while the former 007, bless his Irish heart, does his best to play the scampy rogue with a heart of gold.

What's not to love? For starters there's the threadbare nature of the plot, which has Brosnan's master thief Max Burdett and his accomplice/bedmate Lola Cirillo (Hayek) hightailing it to the Caribbean to spend the rest of their days frolicking in the sunshine after pulling off that fabled last big job. As it happens, they've perennially made a fool of FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Harrelson, hamming it up enough to make a kosher Jew nervous), and this time agent Lloyd comes looking for them. How, exactly, he tracks the pair to the Bahamas, where they live in mild island splendor, is never explained. You'd think this pair of ace jewel thieves could cover their tracks better, but no, one moment they're making an ass of the FBI, and the next Lloyd wanders back into their lives to tell them he's on to their scam, and they'd better mind their p's and q's.

The scam in question, however, hasn't even occurred to the otherwise occupied duo, who spend their days adding a deck on to their beachfront property and sparring over the whole marriage issue. It's up to Harrelson's oddly unprofessional agent, then, to tip them off to the fact that a titanic cruise ship containing a mega-carat Napoleonic diamond is about to drop anchor in the bay - a perfect target for the egocentric Max and an equally ideal piece of bait for agent Lloyd to use as a snare against his wily adversaries.

The plotline is ridiculous on ever-changing levels, but Brosnan, at least, acquits himself admirably. His Max may be a clich & eacute; of the first rank, but it's also just as clear he's having a ball playing the featherweight role. I suspect a lot of that has to do with Ratner's choice of locations: What actor wouldn't enjoy such an admittedly silly role set amidst the eye-popping splendor of crystalline beachheads and azure, sun-kissed skies? (OK, I'll admit it's difficult to see John Turturro doing anything in the role but melting in a frizzy-haired pool of sunburned goo, but Brosnan? Not a problem.)

Possibly the ideal film to more or less ignore while lounging poolside and sipping Jamaican rum, After the Sunset is 100-proof pap that's as inoffensively asinine as it is eager to explore the wonders of diving into Hayek's admittedly impressive cleavage.

Publication date: 11/18/04

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