a critiQal film review After the Sunset (2004)

Plot: Two master thieves, Max Burdett (Brosnan) and his beautiful accomplice Lola (Hayek) are finally retiring to Paradise. But Stan (Harrelson), the FBI agent who has spent years trailing Max, thinks that Max and Lola are actually plotting to steal the third Napoleon diamond that is scheduled to arrive on the island as part of a touring cruise ship exhibition.

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  • ...full of cliches, this is a rather predictable heist pic - but thanks to Brosnan, Harrelson and the rest, it's the getting there that's the fun part.

Since it’s coming up on the end of 2008, and we are busy getting our best and worst of the year in reviews together, we figured we wouldn’t try to complicate things by seeing something new. Instead, we decided to go back and watch some of the films we’ve missed over the years. Among them: After The Sunset, a heist pic starring Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson and Don Cheadle.

At the time, we were still hoping Brosnan would return again as Bond, and didn’t really pay attention to the other films Brosnan was putting out, including this Brett Ratner directed film. Plus, we had already seen Brosnan do a heist pic – the thoroughly enjoyable Thomas Crown Affair, so didn’t feel like going to see a repeat performance.

Now, however, Brosnan has been replaced in the Bond series by Daniel Craig, and it’s been a few years since The Thomas Crown Affair, so we figured another heist pic didn’t sound so bad. So, would After The Sunset be worth our time, or should we have re-watched Ocean’s Eleven or something to satisfy our heist pic craving?

Pierce Brosnan has got to be one of the suavest actors still acting today. Whether he’s playing James Bond or just a jewel thief, he always manages to portray a relaxed aura of cool on-screen. Stealing a highly-protected jewel or locking horns with a insane Bond villain – no matter what he does, he makes it look easy. Rarely seen sweating, he pulls it off with an envious ease. It’s what made him so good as Bond, and it works just as well in After The Sunset.

While Salma Hayek is around more for eye candy than anything else and Don Cheadle’s performance is entirely too brief, Woody Harrelson and Naomie Harris step up to the plate. Woody, especially, really seems to dive into his character in a way viewers haven’t seen from him since his freaky turn in Natural Born Killers. His agent really seems to connect with Brosnan, liking the guy even as he’s trying to bring him down. The scenes where Brosnan and Harrelson get a bit too close for comfort work so well thanks to this camaraderie. They become great frienenemies, and their constant banter is a high point of the film.

Of course, the big factor in a heist pic is, of course, the heist. While most films are determined to outdo the previous ones in terms of setup and level of technological wizardry beaten by old-fashioned cunning, After The Sunset takes a calmer approach. Knowing Brosnan’s going to handle the scenes well, Ratner tosses in a few gadgets and trickery, but focuses most of the heist on Brosnan himself, leaving the other details sketchier. It helps involve the viewer in trying to figure out the big picture without bogging them down with too many details – a light brain-teaser. Nothing too taxing, but intriguing enough to keep the viewer’s attention.

While the film is, at it’s heart, a rather simple heist pic, complete with a cliched setup and simplistic – and equally cliched – plot twist of an ending, what keeps After The Sunset memorable is the interactions between it’s characters. Too many heist pics focus all on the heist and let the characters fall by the wayside (the ever-increasing trend for the Ocean’s Eleven films).

In After The Sunset, the heist itself is really secondary – thanks to Brosnan, Harrelson and the rest, it’s the getting there that’s the fun part.

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