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Review by Jay Rittenberg

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Directed by: Jon Amiel
Produced by: Sean Connery
Screenplay by: Ronald Bass and William Broyles, Jr.
Starring: Sean Connery, Ving Rhames, Will Patton, and Catherine Zeta-Jones

What a difference a year makes! After his ill-advised, villainous turn (no one wants to see him as a bad guy!) in the atrocious "The Avengers" (not even the versatile talent of Ralph Fiennes and the luscious Uma Thurman did any good), many felt that Sean Connery might have lost a step or two especially considering the fact that he chose this disappointing vehicle to follow up his standout performance in Jerry Bruckheimer's memorable, action-packed blockbuster "The Rock." Luckily for us, moviegoers chose to burn the film's canisters at the stake and "007" shook off the ashes, moved forwarded, and signed on to this stylish, enjoyable (though at times preposterous) action thriller from director Jon Amiel.

Legions of fans will quickly be saying "Avengers what?" after getting a glimpse of the acting icon as a master thief. Add to the mix some Bond-like gadgetry, the customary, exquisite global locales, some high-flying special effects, and the stunning Catherine Zeta-Jones (who also ignited sparks in Antonio Banderas's floundering career) and you have an entertaining little caper of a picture.

Like the recent "Pushing Tin," "Entrapment" is also, on the whole, hard to swallow. The acting in the former saved it from a suspect script, while there's so many nicely packaged visuals in the latter that you simply overlook its shortcomings. "Entrapment" is yet another example of a summer blockbuster that you can easily compare to an unexpected and thoughtful gift at Christmas. You're so satisfied with the attractive wrappings on the outside of the gift box that you don't even care if there's anything inside.

Amiel ("Copycat") is still able to move the moviegoer beyond inconceivable boundaries by focusing on the fancy, high-tech gadgets and Connery's great "Untouchables" type humor and one liners, and by letting his camera roam freely on the legend (who is still very charismatic and appealing) and the perfectly fit and alluring Zeta-Jones, who holds her own opposite the veteran. It's also nice to see that Amiel didn't need to have his two attractive stars do any tussles under the sheets to get our attention and keep us tuned in. We do this freely throughout the film's 113-minute time fame.

Zeta-Jones plays Gin Baker, a brilliant insurance investigator at Waverly Insurance. She puts in 16-hour workdays, hardly eats at all, finds a way to stay in tiptop shape, and knows a little something or two about computers and highly publicized art thefts. She has made it her life's work to track down and hopefully turn in master thief Robert MacDougal (Connery), who goes by the nickname "Mac."

In order to catch the "Prince of Thieves," Baker needs to tempt the pro with a job that he can't bear to pass up--an ancient Chinese mask worth a cool $40 million. Just as tempting is the heavy risk involved and the challenge to crack a phenomenal security system that requires at least three weeks of prep time. There's just one little catch before Mac can wet his lips: he'll need a partner to pull this off. Of course, Gin agrees without hesitation.

The burning question is: is she actually playing "make believe" with Mac or is she trying to pull a fast one on everyone involved? If she is trying to play both sides of the fence, then she better watch her back because her devilish boss Hector Cruz (played by the always reliable Will Patton) seems to be one step ahead and doesn't like Benedict Arnolds.

Gin and Mac resolve their differences and decide to go ahead with this master caper, but you'll quickly realize that this art theft is just small potatoes compared to the not-so-shabby sum of $8 billion that can miraculously be siphoned from one of the world's largest banks in Southeast Asia. If you're wondering, the bank doesn't hold that much currency. At the stroke of midnight, at the onset of the millennium, Gin will take full advantage of the Y2K bug and conveniently download the hefty sum from a handful of unsuspecting corporations to a secret little bank account in her name in roughly about ten seconds. Sound theoretically impossible? You bet! Can you overlook it? With Connery and Zeta-Jones leading the highly intricate heist, you find a way.

As the stakes get higher and higher and the tension builds to a fever pitch, the two (predictably) start to question their motives and each other. Since they're fully aware that there's no turning back in trying to secure the mother of all pay days, the cat burglars flip flop from various parts of the world, and dangle on top of luxury buildings and high wires with more hi-tech toys than were featured in "Goldfinger" and "GoldenEye" combined.

While the "age issue" became a non issue for me, I felt one of the film's weak links was the fact that the script was just too complex for its own good. Luckily, Amiel kept the action sequences (especially the climactic ending, which runs nearly half an hour) at a feverish pitch. It also didn't hurt that the director interlaced those uncanny sequences with some nifty special effects.

One of my biggest disappointments with the film, however, is its paltry use of its fine supporting cast. Will Patton, who should make everyone's top-ten list of solid supporting players, is terrific despite the fact that he's only given a few lines of dialogue. Those eyes of his can penetrate lead, and his icy demeanor brought back wonderful memories of his bravo turn as Gene Hackman's psychotic right-hand man in the captivating "No Way Out."

Ving Rhames, who plays a gun supplier and Mac's confidante, is also too talented to be saddled with such a limited role. Rhames keeps playing these munitions experts (remember his thankless role in "Mission Impossible?")?! Isn't any casting director going to get it right with him one of these days!

This film shines in its subject matter. We love to see highly trained thieves in action -- from the notorious "Phantom" in the "Pink Panther" movies to De Niro's highly sophisticated bunch in "Heat." We love all the high-tech stuff they come equipped with and we stay tuned to see if they actually can get away with it.

The film also begins to discover itself and move past its shortcomings when Connery and Zeta-Jones learn to trust each other and when they do, the film takes off as Amiel keeps us visually distracted and highly satisfied.

From its engaging opening sequence to its spectacular ending, "Entrapment" is enjoyable entertainment despite the fact that the finished product could have easily been trimmed by at least half an hour.

Don't get involved dissecting the script. Let it simply go over your head, because you'll constantly be surprised at some of the outcomes. Shift your attention to the luscious sets, "Negotiator" pacing, and often-used, wide-angle camera shots that literally suck you in. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the show -- but don't forget to buckle up and keep a close eye on your valuables.

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