ENTRAPMENT * 1/2 (1999)
Among more esoteric criteria, there's curiosity as to what Brit-born director John Amiel hath wrought. His feature debut Queen of Hearts (UK) was excellent; his next films ,U.S. made were the quirkily original Tune in Tomorrow; Sommersby (the remake of The Return of Martin Guerre), and Copycat , both ho-hum; The Man Who Knew Too Little, a fizzle.
Producer-writer Ron Bass has scripted or co-authored Rainman, Gardens of Stone, Sleeping with the Enemy, The Joy Luck Club, and more .Lately he perpetrated What Dreams Come True. William Broyles co-wrote Apollo 13. The reputation of the technical crew (cinematographer, designer, editor, etc.) is solid. And it is the techs who are the real makers of Entrapment. Q: For better or for worse? A: for worse.
In the opening sequences, a totally masked human being dives a huge distance from the top of a New York skyscraper down to the outside of a large picture window. The creature uses incredible gadgetry and carries on its body enough super-high-tech gizmos to build a Ferrari. The break-in nets a Rembrandt painting.
Right away the outrageous gadgetry is like a warning sign to the viewer. At first, like a yellow traffic light. In the next few minutes it turns red. Expectations are rapidly discouraged.
Cut to the big insurance company which will have to shell out $24 million. Investigator Gin talks her supervisor Hector Cruz (pronounced Cruise) who pants discreetly in the presence of the beauty, to let her go after the thief.
Videos of an auction confirm that the robber has to be the master of them all, the mega-I.Q. Mac. The videos are providential, as everything else. Nothing ever goes terminally wrong. Name the place, time, planning, operation, method, equipment, throughout the flick all work with the precision of an atomic clock -- and to the detriment of even a shadow of believability. More discouragements for viewers.
In London, Gin stalks Mac, Mac stalks Gin. When they get together Gin declares that she was the robber of the Rembrandt. "Now can be a good time for you and I to discuss something" says suave Connery, whose smoothness does not extend to the English grammar. They join forces for a series of feats-- but not feasts for our brains.
Gimmickry keeps bombarding us. It replaces what logically should have been the step-by- step development of heists, scams and such, from conception, to planning, to modus operandi. We are placed before "faits accomplis." All this involves double- and triple-crossings, mistrusts, Mac's princely castle in Scotland, a call-box that just happens to be in view of the mansion (Mac predictably monitors Gin's call to her boss), the reaching of an exposition by underwater means. The duo remove their diving outfits to appear in public in impeccable formal clothes. They perpetrate a highest -tech robbery of an invaluable Chinese mask. All this keeps the viewer at arm's length, uninvolve, without a stake in the game. I have nothing against techno-flicks, even think fondly of some, like the wrongly disparaged WarGames. But man cannot live by computer chips alone.
The couple take off for Kuala Lumpur, in Malaysia, for what will be a climax of a scheme of Gin's. At the start of the new millennium, via computer strategies, big money establishments will find themselves eight billion (with a b) dollars lighter.
What surfaces is a) a case of aesthetic blindness. Looking at the backwaters of the city, Gin warbles "Isn't it beautiful?" (My answer :NO! ); b) the reappearance of diverse characters, all even less than uni-dimensional; c) the main action. It takes place during the Millennium revelry at, in, and between the interconnected twin towers of the tallest building in the world. All this is beyond the possibilities of sane descriptions. The phony wrap-up, a happy ending that, while not hi-tech, makes no sense, is strictly from hunger.
Matters are so incredible that they veer from ridiculousness to script stupidity. I realize that this entire turmoil is supposed to be amusing, but my funny bone was paralyzed. A few good moments are overwhelmed by the mechanical nature of things. It's not just Missions Impossible but also Suspense Impossible. At least, whether bored or not, the viewers won't be offended by the picture. That's a teeny plus.
(There may be an exception, though. Actor Ving Rhames, who seems to be Mac's main purveyor of high-tech stuff --but wait-- is, I hear, highly principled, moral and religious. Yet he plays the movie's sole purveyor of cascading four-letter words. It jars).
What about love and sex, you'll say? By moviedom's Ten Commandments there has to be mutual attraction. For a change, it is made into a hesitant flirtation, a "pas de deux" miles away from the instant bonding of James Bond and his cuties. But then, if filmmakers go for cliches, they ought to have the courage of their convictions. Too little time is devoted to romance. At one point, Rhames reminds Connery "Hey, you're 60." In reality he was 68 when the film was made, and made with an uncomfortable, secret awareness of his true age. The couple is handled diffidently, as if with road signs that warn "Dangerous Curves. Reduce Speed."
James Bond was a bedding-downer, not a lover. But 23 years ago, in Robin and Marian, the aging, scarred, battle-weary Robin (Connery) and the aging nun Marian (Audrey Hepburn) gave us a splendid, beautiful, moving love story. With a little more daring, while never talking to the mind, Entrapment could have spoken to the heart had it propped up its awfully dull dialogue and un-propped the stage props.
The overwrought, cartoonish, supra-tech nature of the yarn dehumanizes
everything. By comparison, it makes even the James Bond adventures
feel realistic and rich in characters. Here however, total and unstoppable
incoherence takes us from plain yawns to giga-yawns. It can be dangerous
if you also feel like gagging. The solution is for your brain to gag and
your jaws to yawn.