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AFTER THE SUNSET

Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek, Woody Harrelson, Don Cheadle, Naomie Harris
Director: Brett Ratner
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: New Line Cinema
Features: See Review
Length: 98 Minutes
Release Date: March 29, 2005

"If you're gonna forward your calls, don't tail me so close!"

Film ***

Certain movies have the ability to succeed in terms of style over substance. Such is the case with the romantic heist comedy After the Sunset, which is something of a mess in its story, but it's such a fantastic looking production, and the cast is having such a blast that one can't help but enjoy it. In other words, this is the kind of movie you see to be entertained, if not have your brain challenged.

This is the latest movie from Brett Ratner, the ultra-stylish director of Red Dragon, the Rush Hour movies, and the much underrated The Family Man. Ratner knows how to make use of a production, and After the Sunset may just be his most extravagant looking piece yet, though we'll have to wait until Rush Hour 3 hits theaters. There's no question that the production value, in particular the lush cinematography of Dante Spinotti (Heat, L.A. Confidential) is the main attraction here.

The movie also opens with quite a bang. As a heavily secured FBI caravan is making its way to house a priceless diamond in a museum in downtown L.A., paranoid-fueled Fed Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson) is having his men tail alleged thief Max Burdett (Pierce Brosnan) at a nearby Lakers game. As a rowdy fan ignites a fight with the refs, the men tailing Max have lost sight of him. Before long, Max makes it up to a rooftop and is given control of Agent Lloyd's caravan by way of a PDA.

Along with the help of his girlfriend, Lola (Salma Hayek), who's disguised as a homeless man, they successfully heist the diamond in a most convoluted fashion. With the fed's caravan being moved to a darkened area, the two snatch the diamond right from the agent's clutches. Having been gassed in the process, Lloyd is unable to make the id of the thief, obviously infuriating his fellow agents.

Then the two plot their island getaway, as the central story kicks off right when most of them end. Max and Lola plan to remain in paradise for the rest of their lives, drinking many martinis and watching endless sunsets. But their plans at early retirement are thwarted once Max discovers that Agent Lloyd has arrived on the island, obviously to trace his nemesis' every move.

Max insists that he's here to enjoy paradise with his one true love, but Lloyd has his suspicions. The fact that a nearby cruise ship is housing yet another priceless diamond has him believing Max is on the island to plot one more "last job".  Since it happens to be the third rock in a series of diamonds Max "allegedly" stole, Lloyd is dead certain of Max intentions.

Is Max actually planning on stealing it? Lola demands that he forget about it and concentrate on their future together in paradise, and that he write down his wedding vows. What follows is an extensive exercise in "who's playing who".

Added to the mix is Sophie (Naomie Harris), an island cop who crosses paths with Lloyd, who tells her that he's conducting a covert FBI op. Before long, the two have become partners, in more than one sense. She is trying to nail resident kingpin Henry Moore (Don Cheadle), who appears as an charitable businessman. As it turns out, he is the very person who wants Max to steal the diamond from the cruise ship.

Even though the movie goes in so many directions, and executes about one twist too many, there is still much to enjoy. The lead actors play very well off one another, especially Brosnan and Harrelson as in a scene where they are fishing together on a boat. Plus, what guy wouldn't resist countless shots of Ms. Hayek in scantily clad attire?

So in short, After the Sunset is to be enjoyed just as long as you don't try to think about it too much. I'm giving a marginal recommendation on basis of the splendid production and the effortless charm of the cast. I, for one, have missed Woody Harrelson and am glad to see him back on the screen, especially in a comedic role. This is a movie that you may not think much about when it's over, but you'll have a lot of fun while you watch it.

BONUS: Look closely for Edward Norton as a spectator at the Lakers game in the opening of the movie.

Video ****

Without a doubt one of the most outstanding looking discs of the year so far. New Line's anamorphic handling (Full Screen available separately) does a most magnificent job of enhancing the already splendid look of the production even further. The island setting is nothing short of breathtaking, and Dante's Spinotti's cinematography fills the screen with immense beauty. Colors are tremendously strong and natural. A remarkable piece of DVD video.

Audio ****

The 5.1 mix delivers a lot of bite and then some. Every aspect of the movie, from that of music playback to that of set pieces, including a fantastic scene involving a street parade, and ultra clear dialogue delivery add up to making this a truly fantastic audio job, courtesy of New Line.

Features ****

New Line delivers the superb goods once again with this Platinum Series release. Lots of grand extras here, starting with a commentary track with Brett Ratner, deleted/alternate scenes with optional commentary, a blooper reel, an hour-plus documentary titled "Before, During and After the Sunset", which traces the making of the movie right from pre-production. Also featured is the documentary "Interview with a Jewel Thief", which reveals the doings of a real life heistman, A Charlie Rose Show interview segment with Brett Ratner, Pierce Brosnan, Salma Hayek and Woody Harrelson, trailer and TV spots, and bonus trailers from New Line.

Summary:

After the Sunset is a eager-to-please piece of visual lush, highlighted by a marvelous production value and the flawless cast who make the most of it. This Platinum Series release from New Line is a most terrific package, as well as one of the best discs to come out this year so far!

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