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Entrapment

Review by Joe Barlow
Posted 30 April 1999

  Directed by John Amiel

Starring   Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones,
Ving Rhames, and Will Patton

Written by Ron Bass and William Broyles

Entrapment is a sneaky little movie-- a child, if you will, with one hand perpetually stuck in the cinematic cookie jar. So taken was I with the film's flash and style that it wasn't until driving home after the screening that I realized just how disjointed the story was. Plot twists that appeared plausible (if unlikely) while watching the film shed their coherence when subjected to mental instant-replay. Is that enough to derail the movie? I didn't think so, but I suppose that's up to the individual viewer.

To say much about the plot is to risk spoiling the surprise ending(s), so I must tread carefully. Suffice it to say that professional burglar Robert "Mac" MacDougal (Sean Connery) and insurance agent Virginia 'Gin' Baker (Zeta-Jones), who also dabbles in theft, team up to pull two big jobs which could net them a paycheck in excess of eight billion dollars. Can they trust each other? Certainly not, and this problem forms the cornerstone of the entire second half of the film. But damn, it's fun watching them try.

The movie itself is skillfully directed by John Amiel, who infuses the story with plenty of action and entertaining moments. Nor is the script without merit: in addition to some great Lawrence Block-type burglar humor, Entrapment is one of the few films of recent years that seems to have a pretty good grasp of how computers work. It's also the first story to do something intelligent and interesting with the concept of the Year 2000 bug. The movie's failing, and it's not necessarily a fatal one, is a lack of coherence. Clever pay-offs are sacrificed numerous times for cheap action-film cliches. Nothing new here.

Also, a couple of glaring technical problems took me out of the story. For example, why do the security doors close so slowly when Mac and Virginia are busted in a high-security setting? The whole point of these doors is to trap any burglars who make their way into the restricted area. Shouldn't those things SLAM shut instantly? But no, our two thieves have ample time to continue putzing around with the computer before casually making their escape through the not- yet-shut doorway. A minor problem, but irksome. And why does Connery's character happen to have a *parachute* of all things with him during one puzzling scene? (The biggest head-scratcher for me, though, is still the duo's plan to "download" billions of dollars onto a recordable CD-ROM. Come again?)

Sure, there are flaws, but when the performances are this much fun, who cares? Zeta-Jones in particular does great work here, as I expected she would: she proved in The Mask of Zorro that she's not just another pretty face, but a fine actress as well. This film will only increase her notoriety, particularly among the audience's hetereosexual males. Ving Rhames (from Pulp Fiction) also turns in a good performance in a role that's an interesting variation on his usual hard-nosed gangster persona.

Entrapment is by no means the year's best action-movie (The Matrix still bears that distinction, at least until The Phantom Menace opens in three weeks), but it's hardly the worst. With a great bittersweet ending that winks at Casablanca, the film is clever more often than not. It's also a good deal of fun... and isn't that why we go to the movies in the first place?


Be sure to read KJ Doughton's review as well.


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