After stealing a massive diamond right out from under FBI Agent Stan Lloyd's nose (Woody Harrelson), Lola (Salma Hayek) and Max (Pierce Brosnan) jet off to the Bahamas to spend the rest of their days making love on the beach, eating lobster, and watching the sun set every evening. When Agent Lloyd comes down to paradise to watch over Max while a precious diamond is being exhibited on a nearby cruise ship, the intense rivalry between the two men stirs up old, tender criminal instincts in Max. Those instincts are put to the test when the island's crime boss (Don Cheadle) comes calling with a request that Max steal the jewel.
Brett Ratner's "After the Sunset" (IMDb listing) actually attempts something different and opens with a twist. In place of long planning and execution sequences featured in similarly themed heist movies, "Sunset" opens with the actual crime being committed. The rest of the film is devoted to life after the thievery, where the spoils of victory can be enjoyed to their fullest. It's a great start to this spirited, sun-drenched caper comedy.
Ratner, the unreasonably disliked filmmaker behind the "Rush Hour" comedies, and the marvelous Hannibal Lecter remake, "Red Dragon," is the perfect choice to bring the featherweight charms of "Sunset" to the screen. Ratner loves to play loose with his films, capturing an infectious atmosphere of comedy and hijinks, and, truthfully, that's all "Sunset" really is. Ratner is making a character film, not anything plot driven, and most of the fun comes from watching the actors get into trouble (with cops, sharks, and mistaken sexual preferences), and then cheer them on when they manage to avoid danger.
"Sunset" has fun examining the dullness of paradise, where the ultimate escape to utopia can eventually turn into a prison when your passions are cut off. Brosnan is pitch-perfect playing up this subplot, revealing his slightly doughy inner beach bum. Unfortunately, Ratner and his screenplay get carried away, and stage a second heist for the finale of the film, resulting in conventional plotting and a distinct lack of energy in the film's last, downright awful, 20 minutes. By giving in to formula, Ratner effectively kills off the wonderful personality his film had up to that point.
In a move that demonstrates that maybe Ratner knows more about his audience than he lets on, there are two visuals the filmmaker covers with fanatical detail: the Bahamas resort location and Salma Hayek's curves. As gorgeous as a place on Earth can get, the setting for the film is as alluring as any diamond the characters are after, providing an opulent backdrop that Ratner and master cinematographer Dante Spinotti ("Heat," "Manhunter") capture with a thrilling clarity. Also obsessively observed are Hayek's considerable assets, which Ratner parades around in bikinis and lingerie without any shame. Admittedly, Hayek's role in "Sunset" leaves a lot to be desired, with the script short-sheeting the charming actress by not involving her in much of the caper. But even without much a role, Hayek makes a deep impression just by, simply and effortlessly, standing around.
Filmfodder Grade: B