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After the Sunset: Platinum Series

Sometimes the job of a slick Hollywood movie is to serve up a couple hours of entertainment, and that's what Brett Ratner's After the Sunset (2004) aims for — the sun-soaked Caribbean heist flick glides like a racing sloop on glass-still waters, combining a breezy plot with top-notch stars, and it's bound to raise a few smiles from even the most cynical of viewers. Pierce Brosnan stars as Max Burdett, a legendary jewel thief who has set out to capture the legendary "Napoleon Diamonds," a trio of weighty gems once encrusted into the dictator's sword. But after cleverly hijacking the second diamond in Los Angeles from FBI Agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson), Max and his fellow thief/lover Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek) decide enough is enough, and before long they depart for the Bahamas, where they intend to enjoy a long and comfortable retirement. However, Agent Lloyd isn't about to give up so easily — fully aware that Max and Lola were behind the L.A. job, but unable to prove it, he arrives in the Bahamas several months later with interesting news for Max: The third Napoleon diamond will be arriving on a cruise ship within a week, where it will enjoy a short exhibition. But while Lloyd tempts Max with the priceless treasure, local gangster Henri Mooré makes the jewel thief an alternate proposition — he wants a stake in the loot. Meanwhile, Lola wants nothing do with another job and would rather Max work on his wedding vows. Of course, Max insists that the cruise-ship robbery is virtually impossible to pull off. But it's not hard to see he still has a trick or two still up his sleeve.

While it's not particularly hard to dissect a lightweight crime-comedy like After the Sunset, the film does a good job of resisting too much analysis — Brett Ratner's even direction, combined with a clever script by Paul Zbyszewski, opulent cinematography from Dante Spinotti, and a score by Lalo Schifrin, delivers the sort of veteran support that could make a dinner theater adaptation interesting. Instead, the seasoned cast simply builds upon the resources at hand to create a superb light entertainment. Pierce Brosnan has done a good job in recent years of outgrowing of 007's spotless tuxedos, particularly when given the opportunity to reveal his flair for comedy — here, he looks perfectly bedraggled in most scenes, in need of a shave and clean clothes, which matches his character's looming doubt over a retirement that may have come too soon. Salma Hayek plays the role of eye-candy, perhaps a bit too often, and while most male viewers won't complain that Ratner's camera is all over her like chocolate on a Ding-Dong, she's a capable ensemble player. A talent like Don Cheadle seems far too underused in his limited role, while Naomie Harris is suitably hard-nosed as a local cop. But the real surprise of the piece is Woody Harrelson, who returns to A-list filmmaking like a pro — his Agent Lloyd is by turns intense, goofy, sympathetic, incompetent, and somewhat lovable, revealing the sort of Midwestern charm that made Harrelson a star on "Cheers" so many years ago. It's when Zbyszewski's script changes up from a standard heist picture, shifting focus to the very unusual bond between Max Burdett and Stan Lloyd, that After the Sunset proves that a genre picture doesn't have to be a formula affair — the middle act plays like a drawing-room farce, with both men relying upon each other to undo the deceptions they've wrought in their love-lives. Oscar Wilde doubtless would have approved.

*          *          *

New Line's After the Sunset: Platinum Series features a solid anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio. Supplements include a commentary with director Brett Ratner, producer Beau Flynn, and editor Mark Helfrich, 15 deleted scenes with commentary, an outtakes reel (4 min.), the in-depth documentary "Before, During, and After the Sunset" (70 min.), Ratner, Brosnan, Hayek, and Harrelson on "The Charlie Rose Show" (18 min.), the featurette "Interview with a Jewel Thief" (8 min.), and TV spot and trailers. Keep-case.

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