Saturday, January 15, 2011

Entrapment (1999) [PG-13] ***

A 1999 film review by James Berardinelli, for

For roughly four decades, Sean Connery has been one of Hollywood's favorite leading men. Rugged, handsome, and (most importantly) bankable, the actor has generally been enough to assure at least a modest return at the box office. Recently, however, one has to wonder whether Connery still has what it takes to top the marquee for big-budget action films. Last year, he went down in flames with The Avengers before rebounding with a small role in the ensemble film Playing by Heart. Now, from director Jon Amiel (Copycat) comes Entrapment, a much-publicized caper movie that pairs Connery with 1998's delectable flavor of the year, Catherine Zeta-Jones (The Mask of Zorro). The result is distinctly lackluster.

Part of the reason for Entrapment's failure is Connery. There's no energy in his performance. He's still likable and charismatic, but, now that he's past the age of sixty, he's no longer capable of the James Bond derring-do that once defined his screen personalities. However, to lay the full burden at the actor's feet would be both unreasonable and unfair. He is saddled with a script that, at its best, is inconsistent, and, at its worst, is laughably implausible and riddled with obvious flaws. And, while Zeta-Jones is definitely easy on the eyes, she's not given a whole lot to do other than tag along behind Connery and look sexy as the camera lingers over her shapely curves.

Those who belong to the movement trying to convince people that the millennium begins on January 1, 2001 will be mortally offended by Entrapment, which constantly refers to January 1, 2000 as the all-important date. The action takes place during the final two weeks of 1999, and focuses on the pursuit of master thief Robert Mac MacDougal (Connery) by insurance investigator Gin Baker (Zeta-Jones). Her scam to reel him in involves baiting him with a robbery opportunity he can't possibly pass up - overcoming the impressive security system at Bedford Palace to steal a $40 million ancient Chinese mask. But, the more we see of Gin (and we do see quite a bit of her), the more we wonder whether she's trailing Mac or playing both ends against the middle.

Significant weakness #1 with Entrapment is the nearly complete absence of conflict. Most of the movie features Mac and Gin planning and executing various capers -- an approach that's fun the first time, but tedious thereafter. All of the action and excitement come in the final 20 minutes, when the dynamic duo executes their New Year's Eve heist in the tallest building in the world. At this point, there are so many twists, contrivances, and implausibilities that I felt like throwing up my hands in disgust. Entrapment's denouement also offers one major surprise that seems clever until you consider the storyline in retrospect and realize that everything falls apart.

For me, the real attraction of Entrapment wasn't the crime tale, but the opportunity to experience what I hoped would be a perfect example of romantic chemistry. Unfortunately, with the exception of a few fitful sparks here and there, Connery and Zeta-Jones never click. There's minimal sexual tension; in fact, they often seem more like father and daughter than would-be lovers. Some will doubtlessly cite the age difference as the problem, but I don't think that's it. Some couples mesh well, while others don't. This is an example of the latter, and, since Entrapment demands some heat from Mac and Gin's relationship, its absence further weakens an already thin motion picture.

Besides Connery and Zeta-Jones, who appear (either together or apart) in nearly every scene, three other actors of note make appearances. Ving Rhames is criminally underused in the part of Thibadeaux, one of Mac's former partners who appears to have his own agenda. Will Patton, who never seems to play a good guy, is Hector Cruz, Gin's sneering boss (a totally superfluous character). Finally, Maury Chaykin slathers on a heavy layer of makeup to portray yet another in his patented gallery of colorful supporting individuals.

It really irritates me when movies can't even get the little details right. In Entrapment, there's a mathematical flaw that a seventh grader could have caught, yet it made it all the way to the screen. A mistimed clock is supposed to run fast for an hour, gaining one-tenth of a second for each minute over that period. By my calculation, that would result in a six second differential between the clock's time and real time. The film, however, maintains that it's ten seconds. Apparently, someone forgot that an hour is comprised of 60 minutes, not 100. This particular instance is indicative of the poor quality of writing and planning invested in this movie. At least the name is appropriate. Entrapment is a snare for all those lured to theaters by Connery's name, Zeta-Jones' beauty, and the false promise of an enjoyable caper film. 
© 1999 James Berardinelli

Labels: action, crime, romance, thriller

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