(Originally published in Rocky Mountain Bullhorn)
Designed as a respite from winter’s doldrums, After the Sunset gleefully basks in the scrumptious sights and sounds of the Caribbean. Brett Ratner’s crime caper, about a couple of retired jewel thieves roped into stealing a diamond in the tropics, is a convincing commercial for the luxurious pleasures of lounging in the sand, sipping fruity umbrella-adorned drinks, and scuba diving in a crystal clear ocean. The film is a two-hour vacation from November’s cold, and its enticing scenery is a fitting backdrop for a frivolous story about attractive crooks acting exceedingly charming. Yet if you’ve seen The Big Bounce, The Thomas Crown Affair, or any other recent heist film, you’ve also already seen this tale of double-crossing thieves, cops, and gangsters.
Max (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek) are burglars extraordinaire, having already snatched two of the prized Napoleon diamonds despite the diligent efforts of FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson). Having given up the criminal life for fun in the sun, the duo is drawn back into another scheme when a cruise ship displaying the third and final Napoleon diamond arrives in port, tempting the restless Max and alarming Stan, who decides to pay his adversaries a visit to make sure they’re not thinking about resuming their illegal careers. When a local crime lord (Don Cheadle) decides to enlist Max to help him steal the diamond, Max’s plot to snag the rock while not alienating the less-than-enthusiastic Lola is set in motion, leading to a climax featuring an array of twists and turns that’ll catch only the most novice moviegoer off-guard.
Which, to some extent, is beside the point of After the Sunset. Ratner, working from a script by Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg, makes no pretenses about narrative ingenuity or depth – his goofy lark is primarily interested in allowing viewers to gawk at a shirtless Brosnan or buxom Hayek, whose bountiful cleavage is on laughably prominent display while she works under the hood of a car or uses power tools to create a new deck for her island home. An under-the-covers scene in which Brosnan and Harrelson are made to appear like lovers rather than opponents has a slightly discomforting undercurrent of homophobia. However, the film’s chief problem is simply an inability to enliven its familiar shenanigans with anything more than a smidgen of sexuality (Hayek is stunning to look at, but shares no steamy chemistry with the equally good-looking Brosnan) and a series of borrowed gimmicks (including a remote car-driving doohickey from Tomorrow Never Dies). The star-studded cast is delightfully cheery (in part, I’m sure, from getting to spend months making a film in paradise), but as the latest entry in the “last big score” genre, After the Sunset is behind the curve.