The witless inanity of After the Sunset is so numbing that the sole reason for any living creature — man, woman or household pet — to sit through it is to marvel at the speed and variety of actress Salma Hayek’s costume changes. After an opening sequence in Los Angeles, this failed jewel-caper comedy takes up residence on a sun-splashed resort island in the Caribbean, which provides its makers an excuse to outfit the beautiful and ideally constructed Hayek in a relentless succession of thongs, sarongs, diaphanous cocktail frocks and all-but-nonexistent bathing suits that have been selected to arouse corporal envy in female viewers and sheer lust among men. This, we can tell you with the certainty of George W. Bush, is Sunset‘s only attraction.
Otherwise, director Brett Ratner (who bestowed upon us the Rush Hour movies); his two baffled screenwriters, Paul Zbyszewski and Craig Rosenberg (the rewrite man here); and the highly paid stars, including dashing Pierce Brosnan and a shlumpier-than-usual Woody Harrelson, find themselves mired in an ill-written movie that has no idea what it wants to be. While trying to be all things to all genres, it reduces each of them to insignificance.
Brosnan and Hayek are Max and Lola, a pair of charming, glamorous jewel thieves who, equipped with the latest high-tech gadgetry, pull off one last brilliant diamond heist in Los Angeles before retiring to leisure in the tropics. Harrelson is dogged, none-too-bright FBI agent Stanley Lloyd, who’s been chasing them for seven years. But the cat-and-mouse game Max and Stanley play has complications: Along with pursuit, they like being buddies. Max showers Stanley with galling gifts; Stanley rubs sunscreen on Max’s back — something you won’t find in The Fugitive. They even wind up in the same bed. Meanwhile, Max and Lola have another problem. He’s a driven egotist addicted to theft, so when a diamond about the size of a kaiser roll shows up on a cruise ship visiting his and Lola’s retirement paradise, he cannot resist the temptation. All she wants to do is put on a pair of shorts too small for the average third-grader and hammer out a new sundeck. Naturally, the oft-frustrated FBI man is keeping a wary eye on them.
The whole thing unfolds amid a torrent of idiotic dialogue and glossy travelogue, dutifully recorded by cinematographer Dante Spinotti. Much of the movie looks like an elaborate TV spot for the gargantuan beachfront hotel where the FBI agent is staying.
Reportorial duty demands a mention of extraneous subplots: Transplanted American gangster Don Cheadle has his own reasons for wanting the big diamond on the cruise ship, and lovely Naomie Harris is Sophie, the local cop who teams up with Harrelson’s FBI agent. This stuff makes no more sense than the bewildering sequence in which Max, Lola, and Stanley go scuba diving at night and Max finds time to steal the gem and get back before they even know he’s gone.
The director and writers owe apologies to many, including Jules Dassin, who gave us the ultimate jewel heist movie, Topkapi, in 1964; the makers of every buddy flick from Midnight Cowboy to Beverly Hills Cop; and any movie in Hollywood’s long history involving any sort of seduction. Ratner acknowledges just one of his movie’s many sources, and the casual mention of Hitchcock’s beguiling comic thriller To Catch a Thief during this drivel is enough to make you spill your popcorn.
Sporting three days’ worth of carefree vacation stubble and his own closetful of tropical resort wear, Brosnan looks as good as always, but he’s no Cary Grant, just as Hayek is no Grace Kelly. As for the sly extravagance of Hitchcock’s comedy, Zbyszewski and Rosenberg can only dream. They go in for jokes about corny American tourists and the tedium of eating lobster every night. Comedy is not the strong suit in this jumbled wreck of a movie, but then, neither are logic, charm, thrills or romance.