In 10 Words or Less
Brett Ratner tries directing a Pierce Brosnan heist flick
Ratner (Rush Hour, Red Dragon) is one of the most successful directors in recent Hollywood history, racking up over a billion dollars in box-office in just his first five films. He knows how to deliver what the audience wants to see, displaying a large amount of variety in the type of films he chooses to make. Of course, streaks are bound to end sometime, and his run of ticket-sale success came crashing down with After the Sunset.
Why this movie didn't click isn't exactly clear. It's not as though Ratner did anything different than he usually does. A great cast, excellent action and stylish directing combined to create a light, airy, fun heist film. But when it hit theaters, it just didn't connect. Perhaps it's because this isn't a Ratner film (he came on as a second-option as director) or perhaps it was the lack of a hot young lead, because there's definitely nothing wrong with the finished film. That's not to say it's a great film, but there are much worse ways to spend 90 minutes.
Brosnan is Max, a veteran jewel thief, who's settling down into retirement in the Bahamas with his partner and lover Lola, played beautifully by Salma Hayek. She doesn't have much to do besides look very sexy in a bikini and be the emotional core of the film, and she does both things very well. Max is haunted by Stan, an FBI agent who lost it all when Max stole a diamond right out of his hands, and when the only major diamond Max never stole is about to arrive in the Caribbean, Stan wants to make sure it doesn't disappear.
While Max tries to avoid boredom in his second life with Lola, working on writing his marriage vows to Lola, Stan's presence tempts the thief and prankster in him. He's not being helped to stay on the straight and narrow by Henry Moore (Don Cheadle), the local crime lord who also wants the diamond. A dangerous man, Moore wants Max to steal the diamond for him, and won't take "No" for an answer. Cheadle is great as an American opportunist with a gifted vocabulary, even if he has just more than a cameo's worth of appearances.
The rest of the film follows the usual one-last-heist plot, delivering no real surprises until a twist that is actually quite well done and not telegraphed in the least. But in saying that, the by-the-numbers plot is done as well as it could possibly be done. The cast, including a key performance by relative newcomer Naomie Harris (28 Days Later) as Sophie, an island cop, play their characters with a mix of pulp/film noir seriousness and genre-parody humor that allows the film to walk the line between an all-out heist film and an action comedy.
Though the movie breaks no new ground and won't be remembered as a classic, it certainly fits in well with the rest of the films in the Brosnan heist genre. And keeping Hayek in a bikini (or out of it) for nearly the entire length of the film didn't hurt it either.
After the Sunset is the latest in the New Line Platium Series, a one-disc release that's available in separate widescreen and full-screen versions. The standard keepcase includes two inserts, one a two-sided chapter list, the other a two-sided mini-poster for upcoming New Line films.
The slickly-designed animated main menu is in anamorphic widescreen, and allows the viewer to watch the film, choose from set-up options, select scenes, view special features, check out the DVD-Rom features or view the disc's credits. The scene selection menus have still previews and titles for each scene, while set-up options include a choice of 5.1 or 2.0 English audio, and English and Spanish subtitles. The DVD also includes closed captioning.
Note: This review was written about the widescreen version of the DVD.
The vivid colors of the Caribbean, assisted by computer retouching, are reproduced perfectly on DVD. Watch just a few minutes of the title sequence and you'll be calling a travel agent. The fine detail is fantastic, as are the skin tones and black levels. Digital artifacts are minimal and there isn't a speck of dirt or damage in the transfer. Like the crisp, clear waters of the Bahamas, this DVD's visual quality is beautiful. The only complaint would be the somewhat washed-out look of some of the brighter outdoor scenes.
Aurally, the disc is equally as impressive, with a rocking 5.1 soundtrack. The score imitates the jazzy cool of Oceans 11, while the powerful source music along the way covers everything from heavy rock to island rhythms. The rest of the track is extremely active, with enveloping sound effects and crystal clear dialogue. The underwater scenes are where this film's sound is at its best, as all the speakers are in play, creating a rich field of sound that makes the action on-screen even better. In comparison, the stereo soundtrack has some decent separation between the speakers, but the sound is much thinner, as one would expect.
Befitting its spot in the Platinum Series, this disc has plenty of bonus material to support the film. Kicking things off are a series of 15 deleted or alternate scenes, with optional commentary by Ratner, producer Beau Flynn and editor Mark Helfrich. Presented in anamorphic widescreen with a 5.1 soundtrack, these scenes would have changed the feel of the movie quite a bit, so seeing them is certainly interesting. Included among the 16 minutes of footage is an alternate original ending that is ridiculous, but is about as good as the final ending. The commentary comes in quick bursts, as the scenes are mostly short, covering background info for each.
Also deleted were almost five minutes of goof-ups that are put together in a blooper reel, including some funny ad-lib moments with Lola and Max' inappropriate dinner guests, Brosnan making fun of Hayak's accent and some cast pranks. Another enjoyable reel has three minutes of visual effects comparisons, narrated by the film's editor. The visual effects are all very subtle, which makes this footage interesting to anyone curious about how the beautiful shots in the film were captured.
The two biggest extras are the feature-length audio commentary with Ratner, Flynn and Helfrich, and a 70-minute behind-the-scenes documentary produced by Ratner, titled Before, During and 'After the Sunset'. The commentary is the kind of breezy production-focused track that you get from a group of friends watching a movie they made. Plenty of compliments are doled out, as they share stories of the shoot and thoughts about filmmaking, including the benefits of technological improvements in post-production techniques. At the time of recording, Ratner was suffering from laryngitis, but he manages to contribute to an interesting commentary.
The documentary, presented in letterboxed widescreen, follows the production of the film from pre-production through to the film's premiere. Catch the appearances by Robert Evans and Robert Simmons to see what kind of scene these events are. For anyone who wants to be a director or see what goes on behind the scenes, this is a good in. The video quality could be better (I've shot cleaner images on MiniDV), but it's not awful. Nicely, it is subtitled and has closed captioning.
The letterboxed "Interview with a Jewel Thief" is one of my favorite types of supplements, that being a non-fiction featurette about a subject connected to the film. In this case, it's Ratner interviewing Bill Mason, the author of Confessions of a Master Jewel Thief. The eight-minute interview talks about Mason's history and his biggest scores. To hear a real-life thief talk about the truth behind the myths is very entertaining after watching the flashy heist story play out in the film.
A nice surprise is the inclusion of an episode of "The Charlie Rose Show," with Ratner, Brosnan, Hayak and Harrelson. For anyone who has watched an episode of this series, there are no surprises, as Rose uses his easy-going style to guide the friendly chat. At 18 minutes, it's a welcome bonus that's fun to watch unfold.
The theatrical trailer, in anamorphic widescreen, and a TV spot are included, along with trailers for the upcoming Monster-in-Law and Wedding Crashers, which looks hilarious.
Pop the disc into your PC and there are a few more extras only available with a DVD-Rom drive. An image gallery includes approximately 42 images from the film, including some studio shots of the stars. Had they been in widescreen, it would have been nice, but it's decent content nonetheless. Also on DVD-Rom is the excellent Script-to-Screen application that allows you to watch the film while following in the script, enabling viewers to see the process a film goes through on the way to a final movie. The Rom experience is rounded out by access to several related websites.
On the Hunt
There are at least two easter eggs on this DVD. One shows how a particularly sexy part of the movie was filmed, and the other is a prank on Brosnan. Check the DVDTalk Easter Egg section for details.
The Bottom Line
Combine Brosnan and espionage and it's almost guaranteed you'll end up with something good. After the Sunset is no exception. Add in the beautiful presence of Hayek and Harrelson and Cheadle's acting chops, along with Ratner's eye for action and style, and this is a can't-miss movie. It's not life-changing nor is it a classic, but no one should walk away feeling cheated of 90 minutes of their life. The DVD presentation is excellent and rather deep for a film that crashed and burned in the theaters. Anyone who enjoys a good heist flick or a pretty look at a Caribbean locale should check this DVD out.
Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.Check out 1106 - A Moment in Fictional Time or his convention blog called Conning Fellow
*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.