Brett Ratner proves that if you can’t make an emotionally charged drama, then go for an action popcorn flick filled with beautiful people. But behind the superficial side of After the Sunset is a film that actually works on several different levels - as long as none of those levels go too deep.
Ladies and gentlemen, Pierce Brosnan has officially changed sides. Not only has he dropped out of the spy business altogether, retiring his “double oh” number, but he seems to have traded that license to kill for a license to steal, adding After the Sunset as the latest in his thief capers.
In After the Sunset Brosnan is a retiring thief, Max Burdett. We first see him in the middle of a job, stealing the second Napoleon diamond with his partner in crime Lola Cirillo (Salma Hayek). As that job ends, the opening credits roll and we move to a beautiful island setting where Max and Lola are enjoying retirement. Well, Lola is enjoying retirement, which means parasailing, scuba diving, finding people to hustle dinner out of, and walking around wearing as little as possible (God bless you Brett Ratner!). Max, however, is having trouble adjusting to a retired life. This isn’t helped when Max’s personal Inspector Javier, in the form of Agent Stan Lloyd (Woody Harrelson), shows up to keep an eye on Max. Agent Lloyd was the one keeping watch over both the first and second Napoleon diamonds when Max stole them, and is dedicated to making sure Max doesn’t get the third diamond which is arriving on the island via a cruise ship. This is no big deal since Max wasn’t planning on stealing the diamond anyway, but things get complicated when he is approached by the island’s organized crime boss Henri Mooré (Don Cheadle) who wants the diamond for his organization.
Interesting heist flicks are difficult to come by, primarily because the writers have to remain one step ahead of the audience without cheating, something that was accomplished by Cheadle’s Oceans Eleven but missed on Ocean’s Twelve. After the Sunset falls closer to the Eleven side of that spectrum. The jobs in the movie are well planned out and clever, without resorting to “oh, you didn’t see this but we did it” type thinking. It’s interesting to watch Max spell out early in the film how he would steal the third diamond, and then to look later on when the job is actually being run at how it happens.
However director Brett Ratner has not created a heist film. Instead, most of the picture explores the relationships between Max and Stan. It is more of a buddy picture, with the buddies being a thief and an agent who has been made a fool of repeatedly by that thief. Stan knows Max stole the first two diamonds but he can’t prove it, and that makes up a lot of humor in the movie as Lola and Max tease Stan about prior situations without incriminating themselves. Stan and Max have a very complex relationship, more than I would normally expect from Woody Harrelson in any movie, so I really have to give credit where credit is due. Harrelson has always been able to do comedy, but here he raises to a new level for him, pulling off a great buddy movie with Brosnan with little of the sophomoric humor Woody usually is involved in.
After the Sunset really should have been marketed differently. It was advertised as a thief adventure movie, but it really is a comedy first, and an action film second. But it doesn’t really matter either way. Most people will see this movie because Pierce Brosnan is a handsome devil, and Salma Hayek is absolutely gorgeous, and that remains no matter what kind of film this is.
The After the Sunset DVD impressed me from the moment I put it in my DVD player. Imagine this if you will - I put the disc in the player, and immediately the DVD menu popped up. No advertisements, no trailers, no commercials reminding me that theft is wrong - nothing other than the menu for the movie. In a day when more and more studios are making you sit through five minutes of crap before letting you have any control over the disc, New Line should be commended for making their DVD release user friendly.
For a single disc set, there are plenty of extras here - almost everything you’d expect from today’s DVD releases. From the standard commentary track by Ratner (whose voice is tolerable for about fifteen minutes at a stretch, no matter how informative the track is) to deleted scenes and most everything else you would expect.
Between the deleted scenes and outtakes, you get a taste of that sophomoric humor you typically expect from Woody Harrelson. Who else would give you a solid shot of his ass as a camera moves downward on a crane into what is supposed to be a shot of him sleeping. That’s not to say Harrelson is alone in his immaturity. Ratner himself seems to mess up just as many shots as any of the actors, unexpectedly inserting himself into bed with Brosnan or offering to kiss Harrelson, messing up takes in both instances.
The centerpiece of the bonus features is the behind-the-scenes featurette “Before, During and After the Sunset”. This featurette runs over an hour in length, capturing a little bit of the whole movie making process, starting with the scouting of shooting locations, and ending with the premiere. Unlike so many other “making of” featurettes out there, this is not a documentary of any sort. For almost the entire hour you are just a fly on the wall as the movie is made, presented from the perspective of someone on the set with a video camera. It’s a great, raw way to present how a film is made, and a lot more interesting than most behind-the-scenes looks out there.
Maybe Ratner isn’t an Academy caliber director, but he does what he does well, even if that is a little mindless action or a buddy movie like this one. I enjoyed Sunset a lot more than I originally expected to, and the bonus materials on the disc kept me up much later than I expected them to because they were actually interesting. It’s refreshing to see a disc released with a few quality features instead of the approach a lot of movies take these days of quantity over quality.