Screenplay : Ronald Bass and William Broyles Jr. (story by Bass and Michael Hertzberg)
MPAA Rating : PG-13
Year of Release : 1999
Stars : Sean Connery (Robert MacDougal), Catherine Zeta-Jones (Gin Baker), Ving Rhames (Thibadeaux), Will Patton (Cruz), Maury Chaykin (Conrad Greene), Kevin McNally (Haas), Terry O'Neill (Quinn), Madhav Sharma (Security Chief), David Yip (Chief of Police)
"Entrapment" is a technically efficient thriller with no human interest or development. Despite the fact that the leads are played by the always charismatic Sean Connery and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the smart and sexy siren who lit up the screens last summer in "Mask of Zorro," "Entrapment's" characters never rise above simple, comic book creations.
The film is about high-stakes international thieves, the kind who think stealing the Crown Jewels is too easy. Connery plays Robert "Mac" MacDougal, a veteran thief of great notoriety who teams up with Zeta-Jones' Virginia "Gin" Baker, an insurance investigator who may or may not be an experienced thief herself. This part of the story works—screenwriters Ronald Bass and William Broyles Jr. and director Jon Amiel ("Copycat") put together three major robberies during the film's two hours, each one upping the ante in danger and reward.
However, "Entrapment" is yet another film that asks us to buy a romance between a 69-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman. And, even though that 69-year-old man is Sean Connery (give him credit for still moving like he's 30 years younger and looking a helluva lot better than Clint Eastwood), he is still unable to generate the kind of chemistry with Zeta-Jones that is required for us to accept this age gap romance.
Interestingly enough, the movie is able to work up some heat, but it is always in suggesting a potential relationship, not in actually following through on it. For instance, director Amiel slyly turns one of Gin's training exercises—she practices slinking and crawling through strands of taught yarn to perfect her moves so she can avoid a laser beam security system—into an erotic dance of seduction. Using heavy breathing on the soundtrack and slow motion fades between Zeta-Jones' cat-like ballet moves and Connery's voyeuristic gaze (she has her eyes closed, but you can feel that she feels him watching), Amiel gives the scene an effective erotic heat, much more so than most clumsy sex scenes you find in movies today.
"Entrapment" would have been significantly better if it had maintained this coy distance between them, allowing for heat without actual friction. The distance gives the relationship an exotic, forbidden feel which, in the real world, it probably should have. Only in Hollywood are romances between men and women with 40- to 50-year age differences considered a given. Too bad the filmmakers were unable to keep themselves from ending the movie in ridiculously romantic fashion—it makes you wish for the heyday of the 1970s when an action movie like this would have ended on some self-conscious ironic or existential note.
However, before the movie arrives at its lame conclusion, it does feature a number of tense, well-directed action sequences involving complicated robberies of a $40-million Rembrandt painting, a 2,000-year-old Chinese mask, and $8 billion from an international trading bank in Malaysia. Amiel mixes up the action—part of the time it's "Mission: Impossible"-like suspense involving alarm systems and laser beams, while other times it's James Bond-style action with Connery and Zeta-Jones dangling hundreds of feet in the air from a slowly breaking string of light bulbs.
Each robbery is intricately plotted out, and what fun the movie has to offer is watching Connery and Zeta-Jones execute the plans. Amiel lets us watch them working out what they're going to do, and their preparation never completely makes sense until we actually see the robbery—it gives you something to look forward to. Each plan is a little more complicated than the one before; and, of course, the stakes are always higher, both in terms of getting caught and making off with the loot.
Unfortunately, this puts a spotlight on the movie's major flaw, namely the fact that it never manages to rise above a certain level because the stakes are never more meaningful than getting caught or getting rich. Neither Mac nor Gin have any background or color; they're simply thieves who happen to look as good as they are at stealing. This is especially problematic since the movie is asking for us to root for unrepentant criminals who are only out for themselves.
There's also no reason why these two should fall in love, unless it's simply because they realize they're so perfect for each other professionally—once again, they are defined only by what they do, not by who they are. If the screenplay had given them some kind of need to fulfill beyond their own egocentric desire to pull off the world's greatest robbery, then maybe "Entrapment" would have had more kick. Instead, it's simply a clever, one-trick thriller that's watchable, but not memorable.
"Entrapment" has been re-released by 20th Century Fox in a new Special Edition.
16x9 Enhanced: Yes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1; Dolby Surround
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Running audio commentary with director John Amiel; two deleted scenes; alternate ending; "The Making of Entrapment" 13-minute featurette; two theatrical trailers; five television spots; production notes; cast bios
Video: The new anamorphic widescreen transfer (the initial no-frills DVD release of the film was not anamorphic) is absolutely gorgeous. The detail is strong, black levels are just right, and the colors are vibrant without being oversaturated. For a good example of how sharp and rich the picture looks, just watch the opening sequence that incorporates helicopter shots of the New York skyline at night, with all the buildings lit up in green and red for Christmas. There are no hints of artifacting or any other defects in the image. The film is nicely framed in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 without any noticeable edge enhancement.
Audio: The Dolby Digital 5.1 surround is as effective as one could hope for. The dialogue is crisp and easily understandable, and the surround sound is put to great use. Christopher's Young's thundering musical score will give any system's speakers a good workout. The surround speakers are also put to good use, but without being overtly noticeable. Overall, the soundtrack provides a rich, enveloping environment.
Extras: The newly released "Special Edition" contains a number of worthwhile extras. The production notes and featurette on the making of the film are fairly lightweight and forgettable. Director Jon Amiel's scene-specific running audio commentary, however, is definitely worth listening to. It gets a little dull during the film's slower sequences, but it offers a fascinating insight into the intricate robbery techniques used in the film. It's amazing how much of the high-tech equipment used in the film is based on actual working devices (some of it, of course, is pure fantasy that could never work, while other devices were designed specifically for the film). The deleted scenes that are included are interesting, but it is easy to see why they were left on the cutting room floor. Also, it is worth noting that the film's technical fetish extends to its particularly intricate animated menus, which are designed around locations used in the film, and can be viewed either normally, through night-vision goggles, or in 3-D.
©1999,2000 James Kendrick