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Entrapment

Review by KJ Doughton
Posted 7 May 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 not a particularly good movie, but it raises some interesting questions about today’s action genre. In this age of high-school shootings and nihilistic, Tarantino-inspired gangster mayhem pulsating from screens everywhere, there’s something refreshing about a film where the flesh-piercing bullets and abrasive verbiage are kept to a minimum. Entrapment emphasizes the classy grace of a neo-Bond Sean Connery and the magnetic, fiery energy of Catherine Zeta-Jones over the roar of violence that accents the current state of the actioner art form. In fact, the incredibly attractive duo doesn’t kill anyone. But if looks could kill, this pairing could start a massacre. The movie knows this, and spends much of its time on facial close-ups. The glory days of watching interesting faces on the screen, when the profile of a Newman, a McQueen, or, well, a Connery, packed as much energy as a Terminator face-off, is echoed in this glitzy, star-focused approach. But is this approach still relevant in the age of Joel Silver and Michael Bay state-of-the-art techno-slaughters?

Box office receipts will tell. However, the fact that Entrapment is also boring and hollow makes one realize that the power of the scriptwriter’s pen is, in the end, stronger than the mugs of even the most charismatic screen personalities. Telling the none-too-original tale of a professional thief and the admiring sleuth-come-apprentice that trails him, the movie is a series of double-crosses and plot twists that aren’t terribly kinetic or surprising. Connery plays Mac, an aging art thief who lives a hermetic life on an island castle in the UK. After a priceless Rembrandt is stolen from a high-rise apartment suite, insurance company investigator Gin (Zeta-Jones) is called in by her swooning employer Cruz (Will Patton) to shed some light on who committed the theft. Gin immediately suspects Mac, and follows him from New York to Scotland.

All the while, Connery’s wary crook is several steps ahead. He confronts and blackmails Gin, persuading her to team up on an elaborate scheme to lift a jewel mask. This she accomplishes via a gymnastic bout of wriggling, writhing, and sliding past hundreds of surveillance lazers. This sequence, and those which follow as the duo embark on a series of increasingly daring capers, could most aptly be described as James Bond lite. There’s a mildly suspenseful climactic setup in which Connery and Jones tightrope across a series of metal planks atop the Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, with the millenium -- and security SWAT teams -- closing in behind them. But dangling this rather light-alloy stuff in front of a generation of Matrix fans is a risky gamble. Action doesn’t necessarily need a Wild Bunch-style bloodbath to make it exciting, but if you lay off the firepower, you’d better have some compelling characters to hold the viewer’s attention in this jaded age.

However, the script is so concerned with moving its heist elements along, it doesn’t stop to consider any real personality details. Most of the dialogue is expository, clearing up the many plot twists. The fact that both leads are guarding crucial identity secrets seems more an attention-holding gimmick than a key to any real character psychology. And the supporting players, including Ving Rhames as Connery’s sidekick-with-a-secret and Will Patton as Zeta-Jones’ jealous boss, have to trudge through some truly by-the-numbers terrain.

There’s a cookie-cutter feel to the rhythm and structure of Entrapment that brings to mind other generic thrillers from hit-or-miss directors, like Ridley Scott’s all-style, no-substance Michael Douglas vehicle, Black Rain, or Robert Towne’s Tequila Sunrise, which paired the equally gorgeous Michelle Pfeiffer and Mel Gibson with a so-what story. Director Jon Amiel has been all over the map with past projects, including the serial killer thriller Copycat and Bill Murray’s recent comedy flop, The Man Who Knew Too Little. In the hands of a more self-assured action director like John Woo or James Cameron, Entrapment might have evolved into a leaner, meaner action machine. But there are plenty of those around. What Entrapment really needs is a script that gets us inside the drop-dead gorgeous heads of these two stars, instead of one that merely scans their beauty from the surface.


Be sure to read Joe Barlow's review as well.


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