Botched Caper

'Entrapment' has a cool-as-a-cat-burglar Connery, a wealth of great scenery and a proven formula. But silly blunders and absurd plotting set off alarms.

April 30, 1999|By Ann Hornaday | Ann Hornaday,Sun Film Critic

Pretentiousness and preposterousness are an uneasy mix, or at least an unentertaining one, which "Entrapment" goes to great lengths to prove.

The pretense is obvious from the very first shot, when an annoyingly self-important computer readout appears on screen: "New York -- 16 Days to Millennium." The conceit will reappear throughout "Entrapment," which feverishly tries to instill viewers with high Y2K anxiety, even as it piles one absurdity upon another.

Just when "Entrapment" looks like the movie that "Mission: Impossible" so desperately wanted to be, it self-destructs with a discordant piece of witlessness.

Sean Connery plays Robert "Mac" MacDougal, the world's greatest art thief, who is suspected of having stolen a Rembrandt. Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Virginia "Gin" Baker, an investigator for the insurance company that will lose $24 million on the theft if the painting isn't recovered.

Gin, who has studied Mac's methods and is convinced that he is behind the theft and that she can catch him, persuades her boss (Will Patton) to let her search for the elusive Scotsman.

In the time that it takes to order high tea at the Ritz, we see Gin on a London street, watching Mac through binoculars as he goes about his business at Cryptonic Technology for the Millennium (what else?). And in the time it takes to brush the scone crumbs out of your whiskers, Mac has crept into Gin's hotel room to wake her up and introduce himself.

Having blithely accepted Gin's cover story -- that she's a thief who needs his help stealing an ancient Chinese mask -- Mac immediately whisks Gin off to his Scotland castle, where he trains her in the larcenous arts with the tutorial ardor of Henry Higgins crossed with Fagin.

The stay at Mac's castle may be for days, or it may be for weeks; temporal logic is so twisted in "Entrapment" that by its climax on New Year's Eve -- of the millennium -- filmgoers may well have lost track of just what new year it is.

"Entrapment," which was directed by Jon Amiel from a script by William Broyles and Ron Bass, benefits from the presence of Connery, whose cool mien evokes the days of John Robie the Cat and another smooth operator by the name of Bond. But his suavely grizzled assurance is in no way matched by Zeta-Jones, who was lovely in "The Mask of Zorro," but way out of her league here, veering tentatively between perky and sultry.

Still, Zeta-Jones' lightweight performance could be overlooked -- especially in light of such dazzling backdrops as the Scottish highlands and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- if "Entrapment" had simply stayed on course as a sophisticated caper movie for people older than 16.

But Amiel continually sacrifices the psychological drama on the altar of high-tech gizmos and overblown stunts.

And then there is the occasional unforgivable sin -- like putting the venerable actor Maury Chaykin in rouge, mascara and a diaper as a flamboyant criminal.

Of the many parties who could legitimately sue for "Entrapment," he probably has the best case.

`Entrapment'

Starring Sean Connery, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Ving Rhames

Directed by Jon Amiel

Released by 20th Century Fox

Rated PG-13 for some language, sensuality, violence and drug content

Running time: 110 minutes

Sun score: **

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