Entrapment a slight but amusing thriller

Sean Connery has been a star for almost forty years now, which is rather amazing considering that he’s been playing pretty much the same character in all that time: the wryly detached ladies’ man. At the age of sixty-eight, he’s managed to mellow his persona so that even when there’s a ridiculously large age gap between himself and his leading lady, (in this case, thirty-nine years), he still manages to pull off a sort of cuddly charm. He doesn’t really need to try to be sexy anymore, it’s just taken for granted: it’s the woman who has to do the actual work of seduction.

Catherine Zeta-Jones, the leading lady, who is a mere twenty-nine, doesn’t have to work too hard, as anyone who saw her in last summer’s The Mask of Zorro could tell you.

This odd couple stars in the new action thriller Entrapment, a reasonably entertaining movie with its share of problems but enough star power to compensate, at least most of the time.

As the movie begins, we are introduced to Zeta-Jones as Virginia Baker, an insurance investigator on the track of Robert MacDougal, supposed master thief. Of course, Mac, as he is called, is basically a retired James Bond with nothing to do in his free time except plan clever thefts. The two meet up, a few restrained sparks fly, and then they team up on a pair of fancy, Mission: Impossible style heists. However, as tends to be the case in such movies, things are not quite what they seem, and it’s to the credit of the 20th Century Fox marketing division that the movie turns out to be a lot more surprising than the commercials and trailers have suggested.

However, the marketing people are somewhat more talented than the actual filmmakers. The actors and director Jon Amiel (Copycat, Sommersby) seem to struggle against a script with lots of good elements, but without quite the right amount of development and pacing. When plot twists come, they come in pairs so that one twist happens almost before you’ve gotten your mind around the last one (especially at the end of the movie).

Connery manages himself pretty well amidst all the convolutions, but Zeta-Jones has less to work with, and as a result her character is nowhere near as forceful as it needs to be. The part calls for a femme fatale, but she ends up being a little too flustered and uncertain of herself to really be effective.

The supporting cast, on the other hand, is effective, although again most of their parts seem to have been underwritten. In the case of Ving Rhames, this results in confusion because I was never quite sure exactly who his character was supposed to be. Things work better in the case of more peripheral characters, such as the Kuala Lumpur mob lord played by Maury Chaykin. All he has to do is create an extravagant character that adds atmosphere to the movie. He’s like a character from a William S. Burroughs novel; his bizarre, sweaty art collector is one of the movie’s more memorable images. Will Patton, who was the boring space cowboy in Armageddon, here gets to overact and shout a lot as Zeta-Jones’ insurance boss.

Entrapment is structured a lot like a James Bond movie, which is to say that it travels from one foreign country to the next, each with its own action sequence. The big difference, of course, is that most of movie’s action is performed by the young, athletic woman instead of the aging male hero. You’d never see a Bond movie in which Sean Connery has to slither through laser beams.

In addition, Entrapment focuses on the relationship between the two supposed thieves. Can they trust each other? What about the growing attraction that inevitably develops between any man and woman when they work together on a big project? How about that age gap? The two stars are quite talented and manage to create a convincing amount of chemistry, even if that means they each spend a lot of time staring into space, making sure we know that they’re thinking hard about things.

Even if Entrapment seems less than perfect after you’ve had a chance to think about it, it’s fun in the theater. This is probably due mostly to Sean Connery, who manages to play his role with the right mixture of confidence and bemusement so that you don’t really care that the script and direction aren’t the best. Entrapment is good for escapist fun. Preferably at matinee prices.