Pierce Brosnan seems to have a preference for retro projects–not just the James Bond franchise, which retains a comforting sixties feel despite all the efforts to update it, but a remake like “The Thomas Crown Affair,” an old-fashioned tearjerker like “Evelyn” and a romantic legal-eagle comedy like “Laws of Attraction.” His latest is an even more obvious throwback, the sort of slightly-serious, mostly-jocular heist movie, with a healthy dose of romance and plenty of purportedly surprising twists, that were so popular three and four decades ago. The title of “After the Sunset” may prove prophetic: there may not be much boxoffice daylight left for so familiar a tale.
Brosnan, retaining the scruffy look he sported in “Attraction,” plays Max Burdett, one of those master jewel thieves that used to be a dime a dozen on the screen but are happily much rarer birds nowadays. After a prologue showing him and girlfriend Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek) pulling off a complicated job in which they lift a huge diamond from its guardian, hapless FBI agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson)–a caper in which Max is wounded–the duo repair to the Bahamas for a quiet retirement. But before long Lloyd shows up, accusing Max of planning to steal a stone that’s part of an exhibit aboard a cruise ship that’s about to dock there. From this point the situation gets more complicated, with a local hood named Henri Moore (Don Cheadle) pressuring Max to help him lift the rock and Lloyd getting involved with a local policewoman (Naomie Harris). Meanwhile Burdett’s own larcenous inclinations are revived–it’s always hard for a fellow to get used to retirement, after all–and Lola gets disgusted at seeing him being drawn back into the game. Twists and turns ensue, but none of them are likely to come as much of a surprise.
There’s a familiar feel to all of this, and it certainly doesn’t help that it’s played by director Brett Ratner at what often seems to be half-speed. His flaccid handling of things–perhaps he was just dazed by the sky-blue waters and swaying palm trees–certainly doesn’t help the cast. Brosnan pretty much acts with his stubble, while Harrelson tries to compensate with a very broad turn that clashes with virtually everything going on around him; the banter between them is particularly flat. Hayek doesn’t have much to do except look vaguely dissatisfied, but she’s certainly easy on the eye, and Rita Ryack has chosen her outfits with obvious relish. Cheadle is restrained to a fault as the deceptively mild-mannered gangster, but Harris adds a bit of spice as the dedicated cop, even if her accent comes and goes. So does the score by veteran Lalo Schifrin, which, like the script, has a retro feel, but more agreeably so.
There’s one aspect of “After the Sunset” that does really work, though: the lovely visuals. The Bahamas locations are stunning enough, especially when captured in Dante Spinotti’s lustrous widescreen images, but when you add the sight of Hayek, photographed in such a way as to set off her considerable beauties to best advantage, you get a truly winning combination. Unfortunately, the plot too frequently gets in the way of indulging in the view. If the picture had been kept a travelogue, it might have been better for all concerned.