Entrapment

WFTB Score: 6/20

The plot: As the new millennium approaches, supple art insurance dealer Virginia ‘Gin’ Baker hits on not one scam but two, the first the theft of a $40 million dollar gold mask, the second the even more daring withdrawal of $8 billion from a Malaysian bank. But she simply cannot do it alone and calls on the services of veteran thief Robert ‘Mac’ MacDougal, who initially mistrusts Gin but finds himself drawn to her. Secretly, one of the pair has every reason to mistrust the other; the question is, which one?

Those with short memories or who weren’t paying attention at the time might not remember the considerable fuss caused by the ‘millennium bug,’ a potential computer error caused by the fact that – in the early years of computing at least – years had been entered by the last two digits only to save space, meaning that some systems would return to 1900 and not be able to cope with existing in a time before they were invented. Or something. As it turned out, the issue was practically a non-event, and Entrapment displays a peculiar prescience by being equally unexciting.

The set-up goes like this. Gin (Catherine Zeta Jones, born September 25th, 1969) works in art insurance and has a fascination with the work of notorious thief ‘Mac’ (Sean Connery, born August 25th, 1930), especially as the former publicly suspects the latter of stealing a Rembrandt from the 70th floor of an office block – from the outside. Sent to London by her boss Hector (Will Patton), Gin – the actual performer of the Rembrandt robbery – stalks Mac to get him involved in the theft of a precious Chinese mask being exhibited at a stately home; but Mac finds her first and though he suspects her of being a cop, he is intrigued by her plan and agrees to help her, first training her up at his Highland hideaway to get past the elaborate web of lasers guarding the mask.

This heist is just the start, however, as Gin also has a plan to steal a cool $8 billion from the International Clearance Bank in Malaysia, taking advantage of a shutdown in the bank’s computers to cope with the millennium bug (see, it is relevant!) and stealing an extra ten seconds by shaving a slice off each minute of the preceding hour. Mac has huge reservations about the plan but his hand is forced by pushy associate and gadget provider Aaron Thibadeaux (Ving Rhames); anyway, he likes the sound of the money, and increasingly he likes his partner in crime – to the detriment of his own judgement and instinct for self-preservation.

Entrapment is a film whose ideas must have looked great on paper: a former James Bond back doing action, only this time breaking the law; a lovely, lithe brunette performing slinky yoga moves to evade lasers (and red wool with bells on); and a zeitgeist-y tale packed with technological marvels, with the enormous Petronas Towers as both a backdrop and playground for stunts. Regrettably, something has gone amiss in the transition from page to screen, and most of it is to do with the relationship between Connery and Jones. It seems a strange thing to say given Jones’s choice of husband (Michael Douglas is fourteen years Connery’s junior, to be fair) but the supposed sexual tension between Mac and Gin feels incredibly icky, and neither party makes us believe that there’s any genuine attraction. Connery in particular looks every inch the septuagenarian (he’s meant to be sixty) and his longing looks at his co-star’s body lust not for her but for the memory of a long-disappeared potency.

Thankfully, scenes where the pair are physically entwined are rare, Mac using the excuse of a ‘complicated’ life to pull away; he spends a great deal more time training Gin for the mask robbery, the Scottish setting more than a little reminiscent of Highlander (I’m tempted to think they filmed at or near Connery’s house as an enticement to get him in the film). And though Gin’s contortions have a certain visual appeal, when they are repeated for real they look rather silly since the lasers are invisible (except to Mac, who’s guiding her).

Then again, there are some things that must have looked a bit ropey on paper, including a number of profoundly improbable sequences such as Connery disappearing silently from a tiny hotel room and later bugging the local telephone box (Gin has slipped out on the pretence of buying him a Christmas present – from where? And what did she get?). The most improbable event of all occurs in the silly and thoroughly unconvincing ‘twist’ ending (I won’t give it away, but the FBI turn up and go away again, defeated, after about two minutes), wherein Gin leaps between two trains travelling in opposite directions. It would have made a decent action sequence, but the incident is merely reported for our acceptance.

The action sequences that make it in are filmed well enough, with some nice aerial work dancing around New York and Kuala Lumpur, and the stars’ doubles get to exert themselves in some high-wire stunts; but the scenes are over-reliant on computers and gadgets, not reliant enough on genuine cunning and daring, and Gin and Mac are to be thankful that the security staff at the Petronas Towers (though they’re not named as such in the film) are the laziest, most complacent employees on the planet, especially when provoked by the FBI.

Much of Entrapment put me in mind of Mission: Impossible, and if Amiel had managed to bring some of De Palma’s verve to the picture, and perhaps some of the cast (Rhames is already there, of course), objections to many of the plot’s less realistic moments would have been swept away in the general adrenalin rush. As it is, we are left with a stodgy, dim-witted movie where much is creaky besides its venerable male star.

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