After the Sunset, directed by Brett Ratner of Rush Hour fame, features two retired thieves–Max Burdett (Pierce Brosnan) and Lola (Salma Hayek)–now enjoying lives of resplendent relaxation in the Bahamas. Like everything else in the film, the plot is a tired reworking of the cliché about the restlessness of the retired thief. In this case, the plot involves a contest–not so much for Burdett’s soul (no one in the film has one) as for his attention and desire. The chief contestants: the last of the three Napoleon diamonds (Burdett already has the first two), and Hayek’s cleavage.
Wasting away in Margaritaville, six months after their last big heist, Max and Lola enjoy days on the beach, evenings of lobster dinners (often joined by aging, overweight, and dull-witted tourists), and nights of unrestrained physical intimacy. Recognizing his increasing boredom, Lola urges Max to write his wedding vows and to find joy in simple things. But the director has not equipped Lola with the ability to keep the audience interested for a couple of hours, much less Brosnan for months on end. So she reverts, repeatedly, to her best weapon: placing her cleavage in the path of his vision. Like any leading man in a heist film, Burdett manages to be attracted to the leading lady for short periods of time, but the pathetic routine is tiresome. When a cruise ship carrying the third Napoleon diamond docks at their island, the temptation to complete the trifecta becomes too great to resist.
Salma Hayek does a decent job playing the athletic tough girl in the opening heist scene, but beyond that, all she has to offer are the glorious contours of her mesmerizing physique. And there’s very little real fire between her and Brosnan–even less in the way of scintillating banter. At one point in the film, the camera scans a DVD copy of To Catch a Thief, the Hitchcock film starring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant: a movie, unlike this one, replete with mystery and intrigue and terrific chemistry between the main characters.
To its detriment, After the Sunset seems intent on making allusions to an era of glamorous heist films. At one point, Burdett orders a drink–whiskey on the rocks–and comments, “If it was good enough for Frank, it’s good enough for me.” The bartender asks blankly, “Frank who?” And the mere presence of Brosnan–otherwise a good choice in a heist film–makes us think of his James Bond roles. Yet unlike the Bond films, which are full of entertaining high-tech gadgets and interesting traps set for the leading man, After the Sunset features only a juvenile remote-control car operator and a plot that is plodding and predictable.
In fact, there is greater tension and camaraderie between Burdett and Stanley Lloyd (Woody Harrelson), an FBI agent who lost the diamond to Burdett in their last encounter, and who is on the island to try to put himself back in the good graces of his FBI bosses and to win back his depleted self-respect. He’s as desperate as Lola to earn Burdett’s attention and respect. Burdett and Lloyd’s exchanges, at least, contain some scenes of genuine humor–but that’s about all this slender heist film has to offer.
The ending contains the obligatory series of apparent reversals of fortune for the main characters, especially for Brosnan’s Burdett. Does Burdett win? Does he lose? Does he get the diamond? Does he settle down? Does he head out in pursuit of another gem? Does it matter? Diamonds may be forever–this film only seems to last that long.